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Tunisia presents new coalition govt with token Islamist spot

February 2, 2015

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s prime minister presented his second government in as many weeks Monday, this time including more parties and a token position for the country’s Islamists.

The cabinet that Prime Minister Habib Essid first proposed on Jan. 23 consisted of just two parties without enough seats to survive a no-confidence vote. It has now been expanded to involve five parties, including the powerful Islamist Ennahda Party.

Essid’s nationalist Nida Tunis party won the most seats in October’s election on a platform of defeating the Islamists, which it said had mismanaged the country since its 2011 revolution, but still needed to form a coalition.

Rather than exclude the Islamists entirely, Essid gave Ennahda spokesman Ziad Ladhari the position of employment minister. The coalition also includes the populist Free Patriotic Union party and the liberal Afek Tounes (Tunisian Horizons) Party, which each have three ministries.

The government faces a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, which it is expected to pass. The left-wing Popular Front remains in opposition, along with a few very small parties.

Still, the ruling coalition may be an uneasy one as many parties had originally rejected any role for the Islamists, while Islamist supporters themselves objected to getting only one ministry.

Tunisia kicked off the 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings that rocked the region. While the North African nation has undergone several years of turmoil, Tunisia remains the only country where the transition to democracy is expected to succeed.

The new government faces a battle against high inflation and high unemployment.

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