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Tunisia’s President Appoints New Prime Minister Amid Deepening Crisis

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied dismissed on Tuesday Prime Minister Najla Bouden, the country’s first female premier, the presidency announced in a statement posted on its Facebook page. Saied immediately appointed Ahmed Hachani, a director at Tunisia’s central bank, as new prime minister.

The presidency did not provide any explanation for Bouden’s dismissal. Saied has fired a number of ministers in recent months, including Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi in February. Also, no explanation was provided.

The shock move comes as Tunisia faces a deepening economic and social crisis. Saied has blamed officials and the government for failing to address the country’s woes.

“There are great challenges that we must raise … to preserve our homeland, our state and civil peace,” Saied told Hachani after he was sworn in.

“We will work to achieve the will of our people and the desired justice … and to achieve national dignity,” Saied added.

Hachani, who holds a Masters’ degree in law from the University of Tunis, was director of human resources at Tunisia’s central bank up until his appointment on Tuesday. 

Saied named Bouden as his prime minister in October 2021, just a few months after he seized executive powers and dismissed the government in a power grab that was described by his opponents as a coup.

Since then, Saied has taken a series of controversial measures, such as the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council in February 2022, that have fueled popular anger. Meanwhile, dozens of opposition and media figures have been arrested amid a growing crackdown against the president’s critics. Last week, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Tunis to denounce Saied’s policies. They also called for the release of political prisoners.

The tense situation in the North African country is further compounded by a mounting economic crisis that has led to high inflation and shortages of basic goods. Talks on a $1.9 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been stalled since October 2022. While Bouden’s government has supported the economic reforms required by the IMF, Saied rejected the terms of the package, describing them as “diktats.” The IMF has required cuts to food and energy subsidies and a reduction of public wages, which Saied says would further fuel anger and lead to popular unrest.

Source: Al-Monitor