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Tunisian PM appoints new ministers in sweeping cabinet reshuffle

Tarek Amara
·1-min read
Tunisia's new government swearing-in ceremony at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS, (Reuters) - Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi named 12 new ministers on Saturday in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject new blood into his government amid rising political tensions and an unprecedented economic crisis.

Mechichi named Walid Dhabi as the new interior minister, having this month sacked Taoufik Charfeddine, who is close to President Kais Saied, a move underscoring tensions between the country's two most powerful leaders

Saied and Mechichi are at odds over their respective powers and political alliances, jeopardising the stability required to push through much-needed reforms.

Hedi Khairi was named health minister following criticism over the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the official date for the start of vaccinations in Tunisia still unknown.

Disputes have also shaken the ranks of coalition partners supporting the government, with the Karama party refusing to vote on the reshuffle and threatening to leave the coalition.

Mechichi named Youssef Zouaghi as justice minister, Sofien Ben Touns as minister of energy and Oussama Kheriji as minister of agriculture.

"The next stage is full of challenges, including the necessary reforms for the economy, which require increased efficiency and harmony", Mechichi said.

Although Tunisia became a democracy after its 2011 uprising, its economy has deteriorated, the country verges on bankruptcy and political leaders appear paralysed.

The 2019 election delivered a bitterly fragmented parliament unable to produce a stable government, with parties bickering over cabinet seats and putting off big decisions.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, editing by Louise Heavens)