200121 Tunisia
A Tunisian bites a piece of bread to protest his purchasing power during a demonstration to mark the ninth anniversary of the democratic uprising in Tunis, Tuesday, Jan.14, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Tunis: Former finance minister Elyes Fakhfakh was named prime minister-designate by Tunisia’s president late Monday, and will now face the difficult task of forming a cabinet within a month.

Newly elected President Kais Saied “on Monday mandated Mr Elyes Fakhfakh with forming a government as soon as possible,” the presidency said in a statement.

Fakhfakh’s proposal will have to gain the approval of a divided parliament, which this month rejected an earlier attempt to form a government.

Read more

After months of negotiations that followed elections last October, parliament dismissed a cabinet list proposed under the leadership of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

Ennahdha won more seats than any other party in October’s legislative election, but was still far short of a majority.

If Fakhfakh fails to form a government, the next step would be dissolution of the assembly.

Fakhfakh, 47, was named minister of tourism in 2011 before serving as minister of finance from December 2012 until January 2014.

An engineer and manager trained in France, he returned to Tunisia in 2006 after several years working abroad.

He became involved in politics after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, joining the Ettakatol party, which had allied with Ennahdha.

Fakhfakh ran in the 2019 presidential election but only gained 0.34 per cent of votes in the first round.

Tunisia is currently run by an outgoing government led by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Many positions are vacant pending the appointment of a new cabinet.

The candidate for prime minister initially designated by Ennahdha, Habib Jemli, proposed a cabinet of independents.

On January 14, Tunisia marked the ninth anniversary of the overthrow of long-ruling dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, amid economic gloom.

The country is struggling to meet the expectations of its population, while an assistance package started by the International Monetary Fund in 2016 ends in April.