Tunisian PM continues anti-corruption war with major cabinet reshuffle
Barely 100 days after his nomination as Tunisian prime minister, Youssef Chahed has carried out a major cabinet reshuffle which involves 13 portfolios and seven secretaries of state.
Pending its presentation on Monday to the Assembly of People's Representatives for the vote of confidence, the new Tunisian government of Chahed seems to be determined to continue the anti-corruption battle launched several weeks ago, which was crowned by the arrest of a dozen businessmen and executives, as well as a famous journalist.
"The new composition will make the National Unity Government a Government of War. In the next stage, this government will continue its fight against terrorism, smuggling, unemployment and regional disparity," said Chahed shortly after he presented his proposed reshuffle to Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi at the Presidential palace of Carthage.
Youssef Chahed left intact the departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice, while those more concerned with national security have all been reshuffled.
"Changing the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defense is part of a visionary approach by the Head of Government to immunize himself against a serious terrorist threat that still persists," Nizar Makni, a Tunisian political science expert, told Xinhua.
In order to officially perform its function, the cabinet reshuffle will need 109 votes in the 217-seat Assembly of People's Representatives (Tunisian Parliament).
In the local press, Tunisian President Essebsi described the proposed reshuffle as "the last chance."
"The rescue remains a matter of life or death, especially since the new government will have to set up a strong political shield in order to fulfill its mission," said Essebsi.
The government of Chahed consisted of 26 ministers and 14 secretaries of state before the reshuffle has expanded it to 28 ministers and 15 secretaries of state.
"Influential political parties have succeeded in influencing the choice of the Head of Government to make use of the political quota of distribution of portfolios," Monia Arfaoui, specialist in Tunisian political affairs.
According to Arfaoui, the Ennahdha Islamist Party has preserved its weight as the main partner of Essebsi's Nidaa Tounes party.
Announcing that it will not vote in favor of the new composition, the Popular Front raised its tone as the main opposition which ranks fourth with 15 seats, after the Islamist party Ennahdha (69 seats), Nidaa Tounes (58 seats) and Machrouu Tounes (24 seats).
"This reshuffle is nothing but a redistribution of cards within the ruling majority alliance with the prevalence of the political quota," the Popular Front said in a statement sent to Xinhua.
According to the Popular Front, the current crisis in Tunisia can only be ended by establishing a new political system based on innovative economic and social choices that respond to the aspirations of the population rather than the political class.
"By keeping failed ministers and even corrupt for political interests, it only leads to an unknown future without forgetting to reconnect with figures of the former regime of Ben Al," it said in the statement.
Notably, Tunisian Prime Minister Chahed has created four new state secretariats tasked with economic issues, which proves his intention to put economy first on his list of priorities.
According to Nizar Makni, one of the highlights of the cabinet reshuffle is the appointment of Hatem Ferjani as a foreign secretary of state for foreign affairs.
The Tunisian expert warned of a "conflict of interest" that may disrupt the demand for certain vital government departments.
Chahed aims to deliver a strong double-sided message to his opponents that his war against corruption, religious extremism, smuggling and social and regional injustice persists despite heavy pressure from influential political parties.