Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane, a political outsider and geological expert, as prime minister, according to a statement issued on Wednesday (Sept. 29) by the presidency. Bouden is now the country’s first woman premier.
Speaking in an online video, Saied said her appointment honoured Tunisian women and asked the newly head of government to propose a cabinet in the coming hours or days “because we have lost a lot of time”.
Saied also said the new government’s main mission would be to “put an end to the corruption and chaos that have spread throughout many state institutions”.
The Tunisian President has been under mounting domestic and international pressure to name a government after he removed Hichem Mechichi from the post of prime minister on July 25, suspended all activities of the parliament and also took over the judiciary, for a renewable month before extending these measures on August 24, “until further notice.”
Last week, he suspended most of the constitution, saying he could rule by decree during an “exceptional” period with no set ending, a move that sparked major protests at the weekend.
The move to task Najla Bouden with forming a government comes after four political parties (Attayar, al-Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol) formed a coalition to oppose Saied on Tuesday. Opposition politicians have warned they will call for more protests unless he reverses his move to seize power.
His opponents accuse him of carrying out a coup, but many Tunisians have supported Saied as they’ve been deeply disappointed by the performance of the country’s political parties.
Najla Bouden, 63, originally from Kairouan, will be Saied’s fourth head of government since he came to power in 2019 on a wave of public outrage against political parties widely seen as corrupt and the third he has personally appointed.
She is also the first female prime minister in the Arab world.
She holds a PhD in geology and a Master’s degree in petroleum exploration from the Paris Higher School of Mining. She has implemented World Bank projects at the small North African country’s education ministry and has taught civil engineering at Tunis university.
Bouden has been given the task of helping Tunisia out of political deadlock and economic crisis but is still unclear how much she will be involved in how Tunisia is governed. The problem of unemployment, which affects no less than a third of Tunisian university graduates, has been for decades one of the main sources of instability and social discontent in the Arab country.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The National News, Arab Weekly