Less than two years after its first democratic parliamentary elections, Tunisia has a new prime minister. On August 3, President Beji Caid Essebsi appointed Youssef Chahed to that post, after Tunisia’s parliament voted Prime Minister Habib Essid out on July 30.
In an overwhelming expression of dissatisfaction, only three members of parliament voted in favor of retaining the prime minister. The 118 members who voted against him largely cited Essid’s failures since February 2015 to revive Tunisia’s economy or make the country more secure against terrorist attacks. In particular, Essid was unable to get parliament to pass a much-needed economic reform package that aimed to improve Tunisia’s investment climate, address rising unemployment, and tackle corruption. According to the parliamentarians, Essid failed to adequately address political infighting, which ground the reform process to a halt. As social protests increased across Tunisia, Essid was viewed by some in government as being too cautious, failing to take the bold steps necessary to push the reform package through. Furthermore, as a technocrat, Essid was brought to power to get things done: address Tunisia’s rising unemployment, attract foreign investment, and stabilize the economy. But under his watch, economic growth fell to 0.8 percent last year and unemployment grew to over 15 percent, with youth unemployment twice that high.
However the government frames it, Essid is not all to blame for his government’s poor performance. A report by the Tunisian government watchdog I Watch found that while Essid achieved 20 out of 72 promises he made as prime minister, he had made progress on an additional 40. There are a number of political and structural factors outside of the former prime minister’s control that contributed to government stagnation. Unlike U.S. politicians, who have dozens of staff in Washington, D.C., and in their home state, many Tunisian legislators have no staff and are saddled with both legislative and administrative work. Government committees receive so little support that they must share a few staff members between them. On top
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