Tunisia: New caretaker government named, constitution approved

Published January 27th, 2014 - 05:23 GMT

Tunisia’s premier-designate Mehdi Jomaa on Sunday named a new caretaker cabinet to govern until elections in one of the last steps to democracy, three years after the uprising against autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

“I have submitted the list of members of the proposed government to be subjected to a confidence vote in the National Constituent Assembly,” Agence France-Presse quoted Jomaa as saying.

Jomaa, a technocrat, was appointed in December after ruling Islamists agreed to step down in a deal with secular opponents to end a political crisis.

He named Hakim Ben Hammouda, an economist with experience at the African Development Bank, as finance minister and Mongi Hamdi, a former U.N. official, as his foreign minister.

However, he kept Lutfi bin Jidu as the minister of interior.

“We tried to bring a new team, except when it comes to security,” he told reporters.

Tunisia’s young democracy was threatened after the assassination of two secular opposition leaders last year by militant Islamist gunmen, forcing the country into a deadlock between the former moderate Islamist ruling party Ennahda and opposition parties.

After the assassination, opposition parties blamed Tunisia’s security apparatus, including the interior ministry, of failure to protect the country.

Tunisians overthrew their long-ruling dictator in 2011, setting off the Arab Spring movement.

Tunisia then elected an assembly to write a new constitution laying the foundations for the new democracy that would satisfy both its Islamist and secular elements. The constitution was approved late Sunday, one of the final steps to full democracy in the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Tunisia’s adoption of a new constitution, saying it was a model to be followed by other countries seeking reform.

Tunisia “reached another historic milestone with the adoption today of the country’s new constitution,” Ban said in a statement carried out by Martin Nesirky, his spokesman.

The U.N. chief “believes Tunisia’s example can be a model to other peoples seeking reforms,” Nesirky added.

Praising the declaration, Ban said “Strengthening the democratic institutions… will help promote accountability and the rule of law with full respect to human rights.”

He also encouraged actors in Tunisia’s political scene to “ensure the next steps of the transition are conducted in a peaceful, inclusive and transparent manner,” as well as ensuring “economic growth is achieved in an equitable and sustainable manner.”

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