The Tunisian parliament has not trusted the government proposed by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, relaunching laborious negotiations to find a cabinet three months after the elections.
After a long day of debate and last-minute negotiations in the corridors of Parliament, only 72 of 219 MPs approved the government, far from the required majority of 109.
It is now up to President Kaïs Saied, a fiercely independent academic who is very critical of the parliamentary system, to appoint another future Prime Minister likely to convince the deputies.
According to the Constitution, Mr. Saied has 10 days to initiate consultations to find « the person deemed most suitable to form a government within a maximum of one month ».
This vote is an admission of failure for Ennahdha, who has been directly or indirectly in power for a good part of the last nine years, and this rebound risks delaying the reforms expected to revive an economy at half mast.
The Parliament resulting from the legislative election of October 6, is composed of a multitude of opposing parties. Ennahdha holds only 54 of the 217 seats, although he is the main party, and laborious negotiations between the parties to form a government coalition had failed.
Habib Jemli, chosen on November 15 by Ennahdha to form the government, had therefore decided to set up a cabinet of « independent » personalities, chosen « on the basis of competence, integrity (…) and their ability to materialize ».
But the patchwork and disparate government it unveiled on January 2 was quickly criticized for being neither clearly partisan nor truly independent.
« Reserves »
Illustrating the difficulties for the divided political class to constitute a strong and consensual government, Ennahdha had admitted Thursday evening to have “reservations” concerning the team presented by its candidate.
Elected anti-Islamist Abir Moussi said on his side: « We are not going to trust our government of Ennahdha and the Muslim Brotherhood ». And other deputies questioned the competence of certain ministers.
Qalb Tounes, the second-largest force in Parliament with 38 seats and the party of television boss Nabil Karoui – a defeated candidate in the presidential election – deplored the lack of independence and of the proposed cabinet’s program.
Observers and members of civil society had castigated the appointment of magistrates considered pro-Ennahdha to head royal ministries, such as justice and the interior.
President Saied, who was very widely elected in October, has no natural ally in the hemicycle, and little suggests the possible alliances to form a new government coalition.
Shortly after the vote, deputies claiming to represent several important blocs, including Qalb Tounes, announced that they had formed a front that they would present to the president in the hope that the latter would entrust them with the task of constituting the next executive.
If the candidate chosen by Mr. Saied in turn fails to form a government, the time would be for the dissolution of the Assembly, at the risk of further delaying the measures necessary to curb inflation and unemployment weighing on households Tunisians.
Tunis contracted in 2016 with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a program providing 2.6 billion euros in return for vast reforms, some of which are disputed. But due to accumulated delays, the country has so far only received 1.4 billion euros on these loans, while the program ends in April and the first repayments are due in November this year.
With the approach of the ninth anniversary Tuesday of the fall of the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, mobilizations took place in particular in marginalized areas of the interior of the country. And the powerful union center UGTT plans a demonstration Tuesday in Tunis.