Anxiety Over New Tunisian Cabinet
The North Africa Journal: In a controversial and unpopular move, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi decided to retain 6 ministers from the RCD party and outgoing cabinet. He also picked three opposition leaders. The move is source of anger and frustration and likely to lead to further tension. The RCD ministers that have retained are those of key and strategic departments of interior (security and police), defense, foreign affairs, and finance.
The new cabinet has now 19 ministers, also includes representatives of civil society, while the information ministry was discontinued, which was accused to stifling civil liberties. In his statement, Ghannouchi says he was committed to “guaranteeing total freedom of information,” and announced the lifting of the bans against NGOs, including the Tunisian human rights organization LTDHG. Political prisoners will be released and investigations will be launched against individuals accused of corruption and other crimes.
The news was greeted with skepticism given that key ministries remain in the hands of members of the outgoing President’s party, the RCD. Demonstrations have taken place in the center of Tunis and other towns, with the demonstrators demanding the banning of the RCD and the sacking of Premier Ghannouchi.
The new cabinet will have three tasks, the first would be to restore order, then to bring some level of stability in the economy, and then prepare for legislative and presidential elections. It is becoming clearer that the Prime Minister is looking for a 6-month target, instead of the aggressive 2 month deadline.Some of the key portfolios announcced:
- Prime Minister: Mohammed Ghannouchi [Ruling RCD Party]
- Interior Minister: Ahmed Friaa retains post [Ruling RCD party]
- Foreign Minister: Kamal Morjane retains post [Ruling RCD party]
- Higher Education Minister Ahmed Ibrahim [Ettajdid party: Opposition]
- Health minister: Mustafa Ben Jaafar [Union of Freedom and Labor, opposition]
- Development minister: Najib Chebbi [Progressive Democratic Party, opposition]
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