New Tunisian government wins confidence vote in parliament

Tunisia‘s new coalition government won a vote of confidence in the Parliament early on Thursday, ending a months-long political crisis and avoiding early elections, while paving the way for long-delayed economic reforms.

Members of Parliament voted 129 to 77 in favour of Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh’s team, after a debate which lasted more than 14 hours.

The vote comes just days after Fakhfakh, who is from the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties party,  announced the new alliance with Ennahda, the biggest bloc in the legislative body.

With 53 seats in the 217-member Parliament, Ennahda earlier said it would only join a unity government that brings together parties from across Tunisia’s political spectrum.

Last week, President Kais Saied threatened to dissolve Parliament and call for an early election if the new government failed to win a parliamentary confidence vote.

Among the other proposed ministers in his cabinet are Mongi Marzouk as energy minister, Mohamed Ali Toumi as tourism minister and Thouraya Jribi as justice minister.

Fakhfakh had promised to name a government that would draw only from parties he considered aligned with the goals of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution and were committed to rooting out corruption.

The cabinet proposed includes Ennahda, Tahya Tounes, Achaab, Attayar and El Badil parties, plus independents.

Tunisia faces a series of long-term economic challenges that threaten to undermine public trust in the young democracy, and which demand political decisions that could be unpopular.

Tunisian officials said the IMF was waiting for the new government to start talks over a sixth review of its IMF loan programme. Tunisia needs to borrow about $3bn internationally in 2020 to meet spending commitments.

Since the 2011 revolution, unemployment has been high and growth low, while the government has sunk further into debt with a series of big budget deficits that foreign lenders have demanded it bring under control.

Elections in September and October returned Saied, a political independent, as president, and a Parliament in which Ennahda held fewer than a quarter of the seats.