Tunisian presidential Qais Saied Image Credit: Reuters

Tunisian President Qais Saied on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Ilyas Fakhfakh to resign, a Tunisian news channel reported.

The move comes after Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda, the biggest party in the parliament, decided on Wednesday to withdraw confidence from the government, a senior official in Ennahda told Reuters.

Ennahda’s move deepened the political crisis engulfing Fakhfkah, whom Ennahda says has lost credibility due to an alleged conflict of interest.

Ennahda with 54 lawmakers needs 109 votes in parliament to withdraw confidence and will seek support for the motion from its two allies, the Karama and Heart of Tunisia parties.

An independent member of parliament published documents last month indicating that the prime minister owns shares in companies that had won deals worth 44 million dinars ($15 million) from the state.

Fakhfakh has denied he did anything improper or corrupt. He has promised to step down if investigators find wrongdoing.

Tunisia is struggling to revive its collapsed economy since 2011 revolution that ended the rule of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring.

The government said on Monday it asked four countries to delay debt repayments, as it announced more pessimistic economic and budget forecasts for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The request on debt repayments underscores the dire condition of Tunisia’s public finances, already a source of concern before the coronavirus crisis pummelled the global economy.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Michael Perry)