Daily Israel Report

Tunisia Presents New Coalition Cabinet

Moderate Islamist party to run most of Tunisia's ministries in new Cabinet announced Thursday.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/23/2011, 5:10 AM

Tunisia presented its new Coalition cabinet on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda party will run most of Tunisia’s government ministries under the new coalition, according to the report. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said the 41-member government will focus on boosting the economy and fighting corruption.

The new Cabinet was announced after weeks of negotiations with the parties who won seats on a new constituent assembly in October elections. The government faces a confidence vote Friday morning in the assembly, AP noted.

The government includes three women and a human rights minister, in an apparent bid by the Islamist prime minister to soothe fears that his party will roll back freedoms.

The once-banned Ennahda party received 89 out of 217 seats (41%) - more than triple the seats won by any other party – in the election, the first one held in the country since a revolution resulted in the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Jebali has promised that the new Tunisia will welcome people of all faiths and carry on the tradition of moderation for which it has always been known.

Ennahda will have control of most ministries in the new Cabinet, except for defense, AP reported. Defense Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi is the only member of the former interim government to continue in his post.

Rafik Abdessalem, a son-in-law of Ennahda’s chief, has been named foreign minister. AP reported that the party insisted his international experience (he has a degree from London’s Westminster University and was a senior figure at the Al-Jazeera news network) and not his family ties were behind the appointment.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s economic worries are mounting, the report noted. Unemployment has grown from about 14 percent to 18 percent over the past year, and the central bank is forecasting zero growth for 2011. Before the revolution, Tunisia was growing at a speedy pace thanks to prosperous tourism and phosphate mining industries.