Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Local Leaders to Discuss Cabinet Reshuffle

Tunis — Speculation is rife in Tunisia that the much-anticipated cabinet shake-up may include the president.

Tunisia's governing troika is set to discuss President Moncef Marzouki's proposal to reshuffle the cabinet, President's Chief of Staff Imed Daimi said this week.

"The declarations about a possible withdrawal of confidence from Marzouki represent an impulsive and thoughtless reaction at political and media levels," TAP quoted Daimi as saying on Tuesday (December 4th).

Earlier last week, Marzouki called for creating a "competent technocrat cabinet and not a party political one".

"If the clashes continue and the government's response is not adequate, there will be chaos and a deadlock," the president said in a televised address on November 30th.

The speech was in response to a general strike in Siliana, which ended on December 2nd after the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) reached a compromise deal with the government.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Abdellatif Mekki told Nessma TV on December 1st that the shake-up might include the president himself.

"We're prepared to review everything in the presidential institution, starting from the secretary of state to the president himself; it's not a sacred thing," he said.

Constituent Assembly (ANC) member Iyed Dahmani said that opposition members were preparing to present a motion to withdraw confidence from the Ennahda-led government.

"We need one-third of the Constituent Assembly members to sign in order to present the motion," he said in a press statement.

For his part, Former Prime Minister and Nidaa Tounes leader Beji Caid Essebsi had earlier demanded that the interim government resign but the president continue to run the affairs of the country and appoint the incumbent prime minister to form a new government.

Mahmoud Baroudi, an NCA member from the Democratic Alliance, told Magharebia that "the resignation itself may create vacuum that may pose a threat to the administration of state".

"Today, we must talk more about concords because no single party can run the state alone," he added. "There must be dialogue because the troika itself is threatened with rifts, especially after the talk about the motion under which the president may be sacked following his recent statements."

Baroudi added that the idea of cabinet reshuffle had been in the pipeline for a while.

"I think that the reason for delay is the examination of general budget, and also because Ennahda is witnessing internal conflicts about supporting this or that minister," he told Magharebia.

"There are differences of opinions and positions within the troika as well," Baroudi said. "For example, we are about to discuss the budget, and yet we don't have a finance minister."

Finance Minister Houcine Dimassi resigned in July, while Minister in charge of Administrative Reform Mohamed Abbou quit in June.

According to Ennahda spokesman Nejib Gharbi, the expected changes will include some of the ministries that didn't perform well. As a cost-cutting measure, other ministries might also be merged.

Behind the scenes, there is talk about the possibility of changes in the industry, environment and education portfolios. The opposition, however, demands reshuffles in sovereign ministries - justice, interior and foreign affairs.

ANC member Taher Hmila called for forming an independent national salvation government of 12-15 members who are well-versed in politics and have a specific programme for security and justice.

He opined that Ennahda and Marzouki lacked experience to run the country.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Abdelkarim Harouni of Ennahda denied that there were any fractures within the ruling coalition.

"The troika is aware of the importance of this important stage," he said.

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