Tunisia gets new government, appoints record number of women

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia got a new government Monday after more than two months without one, with the new prime minister naming her Cabinet, which includes a record number of women.

The ministerial appointments announced by Prime Minister Najla Bouden filled a vacuum that had persisted since President Kais Saied abruptly dismissed his former cabinet and suspended parliament 11 weeks ago, concentrating all executive powers. His critics and constitutional lawyers have likened his actions to a coup in the North African nation.

Bouden, named Sept. 29 by Saied as Tunisia’s first female prime minister, said during the swearing-in ceremony of her new ministers that their main priority would be fighting corruption.

The new Cabinet of 24 ministers and a secretary of state has an unprecedented 10 women, including the prime minister. They include Leila Jaffel, new at the Ministry of Justice, and Sihem Boughdiri Nemseya, reappointed as finance minister.

Saied had previously promised a new government in July. But he then partially suspended the constitution on Sept. 22 and gave himself the power to rule by decree. He has argued that pandemic-hit Tunisia is in crisis and has described the measures as temporary, although he said Monday that they “will remain in force for as long as the peril is real.”

Protests for and against Saied have attracted thousands of people in recent weeks.