Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Habib Essid said on Friday he had formed a government without any cabinet posts for moderate Islamists after negotiations among secular party Nidaa Tounes and other smaller partners in parliament.
The full assembly must now vote to ratify the new cabinet. Nidaa Tounes won the most seats in the October election, one of the last steps in Tunisia’s path to full democracy after its 2011 popular uprising.
Essid named Farhat Hacheni as defence minister and handed the finance portfolio to Lassaad Zarrouk, an independent economist and director of an insurance company. Taieb Baccouche, a leading member of Nidaa Tounes, will be foreign minister.
“They will work on the programme of Nidaa Tounes with the help of the other parties. It is a government for all Tunisians to apply democracy,” Essid said.
The Islamist party Ennahda, with the second largest number of seats in the assembly, had sought a unity government with Nidaa Tounes to improve stability with the new government set to crack down on Islamist militants and tackle economic reforms.
Nidaa Tounes leaders had not openly opposed a unity administration. But Nidaa Tounes hardliners were against any alliance with Ennahda, who they blame for turmoil during the first Islamist-led government after the 2011 uprising.
Ennahda party leaders were consulting on Friday on whether to accept the new government.
Since the fall of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisian politics has often been dominated by compromises between secular and Islamist leaders to helped keep democratisation on track.
No party has an outright majority in the new parliament, meaning political bargains and deal-making are needed to form coalitions and decide on government posts.
One of the most secular countries in the Arab world, Tunisia has been held up as example of peaceful democratic evolution in an otherwise violence-ridden region, with free elections and a new constitution four years after Ben Ali’s overthrow.