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Appointment of first woman prime minister opens door to new government but IMF talks are on hold

Tensions have lowered a notch with President Saïed's appointment of Najla Romdhane as prime minister but underlying crisis is deepening

By naming Najla Bouden Romdhane as Tunisia's first female prime minister on 29 September, President Kaïs Saïed has briefly changed the political conversation but disclosed little about future policies. The country's economic crisis is worsening and talks with the International Monetary Fund about a bail-out are on hold.

A former professor of geology, Romdhane will have far less power than previous prime ministers following the announcement by the President's office last week that Saïed intends to rule by decree.

It added that he will form a committee to draft amendments to the 2014 constitution and establish 'a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign'. The measures will allow Saïed to present 'legislative texts' by decree, appoint the cabinet and set policy and basic decisions without interference.

In the meantime, Parliament will remain suspended, as will members' immunity from prosecution.

So far, Saïed's moves have been popular but the powerful trade unions and political parties are starting to coordinate against him. The Islamist party Ennahda, still the largest in parliament, has again accused Saïed of mounting a coup against the constitution.

Four political parties – Attayar, Al Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol – said in a joint statement that 'the president has lost his legitimacy by violating the constitution … and he will be responsible for all the possible repercussions of this dangerous step.' Ennahda has hired the expensive United States and United Kingdom PR and political consultancy Burston Marsteller to help its fightback. It has had BCW, a subsidiary of the PR giant WPP Group, on retainer for several years, but the current strategy does not appear to extend much beyond waiting for President Saïed's popularity to drop. That may be indicative of the malaise that has seen Ennahda lose support at successive elections and the public anger at all party politicians.



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