Tunisia replaces its prime minister peacefully. Is the shift for the good?

The post-Arab Spring democracy faces challenges and has ousted its prime minister. Now, a new potential leader steps into the spotlight with some progressive ideas.

Hassene Dridi/AP
Tunisia's new Prime Minister Youssef Chahed smiles before a press conference at the presidential palace in Tunis, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. Mr. Chahed served as minister for local affairs in the government that fell over the weekend in a no-confidence vote.

Tunisia’s fledging democracy has weathered a parliamentary-prompted transfer of power. On Saturday, the parliament passed an unprecedented vote of no confidence in former Prime Minister Habib Essid, disbanding his government. On Wednesday, Youssef Chahed, a minister from the Essid government, announced that he has been nominated as the country's new prime minister.

Parliament is expected to vote on the nomination within the month, and the ousted prime minister pledged an easy transition into the new government. He said the parliamentary debate that put him out of power "consecrated Tunisia's nascent democracy," and received a standing ovation from the lawmakers who'd ousted him.

Democracy in Tunisia was the result of a revolt which toppled long-time autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, sparking the Arab Spring. It is not the first time that the Tunisian democracy has seen a peaceful change of leadership. But this one stands out within the context of the aftermath of the Arab Spring, in which the revolts of other nations have resulted in coups or anarchic civil conflicts.

And the chosen new prime minister, Mr. Chahed, has stepped into the political spotlight with progressive bullet-points in hand.

Chahed, who said he wanted to quickly set democracy back on track, announced that he would select more female ministers for his cabinet and that Tunisia would be a "government of youths," the Associated Press reports.

Chahed will inherit a country that faces threats of terrorism, inflation, and high unemployment rates. An inability to cope with these problems, along with political party maneuvering, led to the dismissal of Mr. Essid. 

"Today, we enter into a new stage that demands efforts and exceptional sacrifices and boldness to find out-of-the-box solution to the nation's problems," Chahed told reporters Wednesday. "We will speak frankly to the people about the reality of the country's financial and economic situation."

That situation has been bleak for the new democracy. Economic growth is nonexistent and unrest from the ranks of unemployed college graduates was integral in starting the Arab Spring. The country has also faced terrorist attacks, including two last year which killed around 60 people, mostly tourists. Chahed has called the war on terrorism his first priority.

Some critics are skeptical that Chahed will be able to keep young people from losing "hope in the future," as the nominee cautioned against on Wednesday. They say he has little political experience, having come into politics after the revolution, and point out that he is a distant relative of President Beji Caid Essebsi, who nominated him. 

Critics took to social media sites to voice their opposition under the hashtag "keep your relatives at home" in Arabic, reports France24. Chahed is the nephew of Essebsi's son-in-law, according to Tunisian media.

However, Chahed has the support of five parties, including the two largest: his own, Nidaa Tounes (which was founded by the president), and the Islamist Ennahda. This means that his nomination will likely be approved in the parliamentary vote.

While the change of power comes from dissatisfaction within the country, the way that it has been handled thus far comes from a democratic process, constitutional law expert Nawfel Saied tells the Associated Press.

Chahed said he could start consultations to form his new government immediately.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.