Tunisian Cabinet reshuffle approved by Parliament

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The Tunisian parliament approved a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed amid a political and economic crisis.

The approval is seen as a victory for Chahed over his political opponents, including his party Nidaa Tounes, who demanded he step down because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.

Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers last week in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government.

Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.

A former foreign minister under former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, Tunisia’s main employer.

Portfolios including finance, foreign affairs and the interior were unchanged.

Lawmakers voted to approve the reshuffle, giving Chahed support to push on with economic reforms sought by lenders.
“Since two years we were working under random shelling from friendly fire,” Chahed said in speech to parliament.
“We have not found political support for the reforms and in the fight against corruption, this is no longer possible as we want to move forward reviving the economy and ending the political crisis,” he said.

The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with party leader, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president’s son who accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.

Party demands have been supported by the influential UGTT union, which opposed Chahed’s plans to overhaul loss-making public companies.

Political wrangling has alarmed donors which have kept Tunisia afloat with loans granted in exchange for the promise of reforms including cutting a bloated public service.
“This reshuffle is a coup against the winning party in the 2014 elections … Chahed did not consult with Nidaa Tounes about this reshuffle”, Sofian Toubel, an official in Nidaa Tounes said.

Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since 2011 but the North African country has been hit by economic crisis and militant attacks since.