Tunisia nominates new prime minister
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Former provisional Tunisian interior minister Habib Essid has been nominated as the country’s new prime minister, a senior Tunisian official told FRANCE 24 on Monday, following an agreement between political parties.
Essid served in the government under former Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and was appointed provisional interior minister from March to December 2011 following Ben Ali’s ouster.
The 65-year-old Tunisian politician has also held a number of posts in the Agriculture Ministry and has a post-graduate degree in agronomy from the University of Minnesota.
The appointment comes weeks after veteran Tunisian politician Beji Caid Essebsi of the secular Nidaa Tounes party won the December 21 presidential runoff, beating his rival Moncef Marzouki in the country’s first free presidential election since the 2011 uprising.
More than three years after this tiny North African nation sparked a wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring, Tunisia has managed a relatively peaceful transition to democracy, marked primarily by compromises between the Islamist Ennahda party and other secular parties.
Ennahda chose not to field or back a presidential candidate in the 2014 election to “help maintain the equilibrium necessary for the healthy development of our democracy,” according to leader Rachid Ghannouchi.
But Tunisian democracy faces many challenges in a very difficult neighbourhood. With a population of just 11 million people, the country has the dubious distinction of being the largest source of foreign jihadist fighters joining the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, according to government and independent monitoring figures. The unemployment rate also hovers around 16 percent, with youth joblessness almost double that and rising even higher in rural areas.