President Kais Saied names Najla Bouden Romdhane as new prime minister, nearly two months after his power grab.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has named Najla Bouden Romdhane, a little-known university engineer who worked with the World Bank, as the country’s first female prime minister, nearly two months after he seized most powers in a move his foes call a coup.
Romdhane will take office at a moment of national crisis, with the democratic gains won in a 2011 revolution in doubt and as a major threat looms to public finances.
Saied dismissed the previous prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed wide executive powers in July and has been under growing domestic and international pressure to form a new government.
Last week he brushed aside much of the constitution to say he could rule largely by decree.
He has named Romdhane under the provisions he announced last week and has asked her to quickly form a new government, the presidency said on social media.
Saied’s office published a video of him meeting Bouden in his office and charging her with presenting a cabinet “in the coming hours or days”.
He repeatedly emphasised the “historic” nature of the nomination of a woman, calling it “an honour for Tunisia and a hommage to Tunisian women”.
Saied said the new government’s main mission would be to “put an end to the corruption and chaos that have spread throughout many state institutions”.
The new government should respond to the demands and dignity of Tunisians in all fields, including health, transport and education, he added.
Bouden will be Tunisia’s tenth prime minister since a 2011 uprising overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia faces a rapidly looming crisis in public finances after years of economic stagnation were aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic and political infighting.
The country has won international plaudits for its democratic transition but many Tunisians have seen little improvement in their lives and have become disillusioned with a dysfunctional and corrupt political process.
The new government will have to move very quickly to seek financial support for the budget and debt repayments after Saied’s power grab in July put talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on hold.
Saied’s moves placed vast executive powers in the hands of the president, who will himself head the cabinet.
His rulings on September 22 also extended the suspension of parliament.
Najla Bouden, the same age as Saied at 63, is a former director at PromESsE, a higher education reform project, and has held senior positions at Tunisia’s higher education ministry.
Originally from Kairouan, she is a French-educated geologist with a doctorate in geological engineering, and is a lecturer at Tunisia’s national engineering school.