File picture taken on April 5, 2011 shows Tunisian former interior minister Habib Essid before meeting with his Italian counterpart in Tunis
File picture taken on April 5, 2011 shows Tunisian former interior minister Habib Essid before meeting with his Italian counterpart in Tunis © Fethi Belaid - AFP/File
File picture taken on April 5, 2011 shows Tunisian former interior minister Habib Essid before meeting with his Italian counterpart in Tunis
AFP
Last updated: January 5, 2015

Old regime's Essid to form new Tunisia government

Banner Icon Ex-interior minister Habib Essid, who held a number of posts under Tunisia's ousted regime, has been tasked with forming a government as prime minister designate, he told reporters Monday.

Ex-interior minister Habib Essid, who held a number of posts under Tunisia's ousted regime, has been tasked with forming a government as prime minister designate, he announced Monday.

Essid, a top interior ministry civil servant under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, made the announcement after a meeting with Beji Caid Essebsi who last month won Tunisia's first free presidential election.

"I had the honour of being received today by the president who tasked me with forming the new government," Essid told reporters at the presidential palace.

"Consultations with (political) parties and civil society will begin," he added, without giving a date for the launch of talks.

The prime minister designate has a month -- renewable once -- to form a cabinet and win parliamentary approval for his line-up.

His name was put forward by Essebsi's Nidaa Tounes party which won October parliamentary elections by securing 86 of the 217 seats.

Essid, 65, held government positions without ever being minister under Ben Ali's iron-fisted regime but returned after Tunisia's 2011 revolution.

After a stint as interior minister, he served as security adviser to prime minister Hamadi Jebali of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

"After consultations, both within the party and with other parties, there is consensus around the name of Habib Essid as candidate for the post of head of government," Nidaa Tounes vice president Mohamed Ennaceur told reporters.

"He is an independent figure... who has skills and experience," Ennaceur said, singling out his "knowledge of security matters".

Some Nidaa Tounes members had wanted the post to be held by a member of their party.

The prime minister designate will need the support of other parties in parliament for his line-up, as the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes does not hold a majority.

Ennahda, which came second in the polls, has not ruled out joining a coalition with Nidaa Tounes.

The Islamist movement reacted positively to Essid's nomination and said it would be ready to join a cabinet under his premiership.

"We have held a principled position since before the elections that we are in favour of a government of national unity," said Ennahda spokesman Zied Ladhari.

The nomination of Essid highlights "the important role that security will play for any new government", said Abdellatif Hannachi, a contemporary history professor.

A rise in Islamist extremism since the revolution as well as an ailing economy are among the challenges facing the next Tunisian government.

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