Tunisia’s first vote of no confidence took place on Sunday July 31, effectively removing Habib Essid from his position as Prime Minister a year and a half after his appointment.
The vote came following President Beji Caid Essebsi announcing on national TV that Tunisia is in need of a new, more unified, and more effective government. The President’s clear distrust of Essid’s government was a shared feeling across the country; many had considered Essid to be indecisive and incapable of fixing Tunisia’s deep rooted economic and security issues. With a large proportion of jobs relating to the tourist and service sectors, recent terrorist attacks at a hotel resort and memorial site have put off many tourists from visiting Tunisia, resulting in unemployment figures to soar. In the eyes of the public, Essid had failed to manage these issues. That being said, coming to Essid’s defense, many have pointed out that with only a year and a half in office, Essid was not given enough time to deal with these issues properly.
Five years on from the Jasmine Revolution, the vote of no confidence symbolises how far Tunisia has progressed as a democratic nation. In an interview with Al Jazeera, MP Ibtiseem Jbebli said, ‘the vote was a test for democracy’. This was only reaffirmed by Essid himself who claimed that the vote of no confidence ‘consecrated Tunisia’s nascent democracy’, despite it going against him. In fact, Tunisia’s progress has been internationally celebrated, with the state being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
The Tunisian constitution requires a new Prime Minister to be named within 10 days of the vote, and a government to be formed a month after that. The rush to elect a leader leaves many worried that the leading party, Nidaa Tounes, will choose someone from their party who will obey their orders, invariably causing tension within the Secular-Islamist coalition government.
Added stress for the next Nidaa Tounes led government is its infighting which has caused a deepening split between party members. The splits have become so severe that there have even been two political assassinations of leftist politicians. It is argued that much of the split stems from the nepotism and corruption that has spoiled the party and undermined democracy in Tunisia.
However, the greatest challenge that faces the new government is trying to balance economic reform whilst maintaining its democratic mandate. The government must attempt to invigorate a depressed economy by attracting investors and tourists in attempts to stimulate job growth. Austerity measures seem to be the only way forward – at least that is what the economists are saying – but these are going to be hard to implement on a population already struck by immense poverty.
So, it seems fair to say that any future leader and government is going to struggle to find a solution to the whole host of problems Tunisia faces, and that removing Essid is unlikely to encourage change as quickly as the people are demanding.