Tunisia’s parliament has effectively disbanded the government of US-trained agricultural economist Habib Essid after passing a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.
The no-confidence motion was passed by 118 votes, easily crossing the country’s 109-vote threshold after a debate that stretched late into the night.
Although the result was expected the vote was a mark of the instability which has bedevilled the country since it kicked off a wave of pro-democracy rebellions across the Arab world in 2011. Mr Essid had faced criticism from across Tunisia’s political spectrum.
Parliament’s president Mohamed Ennaceur told MPs that Tunisia was “living through a difficult situation that demands sacrifices from all” and said “we must now look to the future to return hope to all Tunisians”.
Unlike fellow Arab countries such as Egypt, Yemen Syria and Libya, whose revolts have degenerated into coups or anarchic civil conflicts, Tunisia has maintained its parliamentary democracy in the face of jihadi attacks, inflation, and stubbornly high unemployment rates.
However, the difficulties have steadily sapped the authority of Mr Essid, whose position has also been undermined by political manoeuvring within Tunisia’s secular Nida Tounis party and pressure from the country’s president Beji Caid Essebsi who called for a new national unity government last month.
Mr Essid said he would do his best to make sure the transition to the new government was a tranquil one and despite fierce criticism of his government during an extraordinary parliamentary session, he said the debate “consecrated Tunisia’s nascent democracy”.
“Despite the serious problems our country faces, we have no fear for Tunisia which has the resources to face up to the challenges”, he said, before being given a standing ovation by the MPs who ousted him.
Constitutional law expert Nawfel Saied said that the no-confidence vote, although unprecedented in the country’s short history with democracy, was actually a positive point.
He suggested the move could result in a more prominent role for the more religiously-oriented Ennahda party, which has the largest number of seats in parliament after defections and splits within Nida Tounis.
That is because Mr Essebsi now has a month to pick a new prime minister, who in turn has a month to appoint a cabinet which has to be presented to parliament.
The president “will have a central role to play in this delicate political operation, which needs the support of various political parties, especially the Islamist Ennahda party”, he said.
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