Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced on September 6th the composition of his new government team. A reshuffle was expected to fill two vacancies: Finance and National Education, but the new appointments, including the Interior and National Defense, have also marked a new political orientation.
By Thierry Brésillon
Finance and National Educaton were the two ministries that were expected to be filled in the government of Youssef Chahed. For the first time since the resignation of Lamia Zribi, on May 1st, after declaring that the central bank had no longer the means to defend the parity of the dinar and thus accelerating in the devaluation of the national currency (currently 1 euro for 2.90 dinars), She was replaced by Ridha Chalghoum, who returned to the position he held in Zine el Abeddine Ben Ali’s government in 2010. Neji Jalloul, Minister of Education, was also pushed towards the exit on May 1st, after the deterioration of his relations with teachers unions. He was replaced by Hatam Ben Salem, former Minister of Education during President Ben Ali’s era (2008-2010).
Departure of Fadhel Abdelkefi
Finally, on September 6th , the announcement of the new composition of the government, revealed a number of surprises. Against all odds, Interior Minister, Hedi Madjoub, whose results were not disputed, was replaced by Lotfi Brahem, commander-in-chief of the National Guard. The Minister of National Defense, Fahrat Horchani, was also replaced by Abdelkrim Zbidi, who held several governmental positions (health and scientific research) in the early 2000s, before becoming Minister for Defense from January 2011 to March 2013. Another notable change, Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, Fadhel Abdelkefi, organizer of the Tunisia 2020 investors meeting in November 2016, weakened due to a dispute with the customs, was also replaced by Zied Ladhari, Minister of Industry and Commerce. A promotion to represent Ennahdha Islamist movement, represented by two other members of the cabinet (Imed Hammami, Minister of Industry and SMEs, and Anouar Maarouf, Minister of Information Technology and Digital Economy) .
A “last chance” reshuffle to get the country out of the crisis
In an interview published during the same day on Essahafa newspaper, the Head of State described the reshuffle as a “last chance” to get the country out of the crisis and mainly a “difficult” economic situation . He considered that the disagreement between different political parties was “out of control” and “threatened the stability of the country”. The Head of State also hardened the tone with regard to Ennahdha: “We tried to train Ennahdha towards a more civilian vision of Tunisia, but we were obviously mistaken in our judgment.” said President Beji Caid Essebsi.
Old regime figures make a comeback
A moment in the spotlight, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, in his forties, presented at his appointment in August 2016, as a manifestation of political renewal, is kept at his position but he had to integrate several old regime figures into his team.
While local elections are supposed to take place in December, these political inflections can be read as a willingness to take things over due to the difficulty to control the situation, but also the probability of Annahda Islamist party to achieve good electoral results while the party of the Head of State, Nidaa Tounes, fails to curb its internal divisions.