Tunisia’s parliament approves new constitution, PM Jomaa unveils new cabinet

By bne IntelliNews January 27, 2014

Tunisia's national assembly approved with an overwhelming majority the new constitution three years after the uprising that ended the former Ben Ali regime, the state news agency TAP reported. A total of 200 deputies voted ‘yes’ for the constitution while 12 others voted ‘no’ and 4 abstained.

The new constitution was the fruit of multilateral compromises among Tunisia’s major political parties which have succeeded so far to avoid any escalation of violence similar to the Egyptian case. The ruling Ennahda Islamic party seems to have learned from the fate of its Egyptian counterpart, the Muslim Brotherhood, and decided to ride the wave of change hoping to retain its strong positions in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The new constitution recognises Islam as the country's religion, but it also advocates freedom of conscience and belief, and equality between the sexes.

Prior to the constitution vote, that took place on Sunday evening, the recently appointed PM Mehdi Jomaa announced a new 28-member technocrat government that will rule the country for a transitional period and oversee the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections whose dates are yet to be designated.  

The government of Mehdi Jomaa is composed of 21 ministers and 7 secretaries of state including three women. Hakim Ben Hammouda, an economist who worked at the African Development Bank, was named finance minister and Mongi Hamdi, a former UN official, foreign minister. Minister of the Interior in the previous Ennahda government, Lofti Ben Jeddou, was re-appointed at the head of the ministry. A post of Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Interior in charge of Security was created.

Besides coping with the political situation, the new government will have to tackle the urgent issue of economic reforms including cutting some of the long-standing subsidies to help curb the budget deficit and meet the IMF’s recommendations.

International lenders are calling on Tunisia to reduce public subsidies to cut a budget deficit estimated to have hit 6.8% of GDP in 2013. At any rate, the political agreement will help ease the pressure on Tunisia’s sovereign ratings following the recent downgrades.  

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