After making controversial decisions of suspending parliament and sacking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, the Tunisian leader has appointed the Arab World’s first female Prime Minister, Najla Bouden. When it comes to politics in the country, Mechichi’s successor seems like an underdog who was picked out of nowhere.
President Saied has been ruling the country single-handed for almost three months since the other lawmakers were stripped of their duties. This came after intense protests in the country aimed at attacking Saied’s governance and how his administration was failing Tunisians, especially amid the current coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
As a response, he dismissed Mechichi from the PM office and assumed carrying the nation on his shoulders. According to him, a coup was brewing, so he wanted to cleanse the political system before rebels eroded it.
But the president has decided to appoint a helper in governing his state after gifting Romdhane with a high office as she is now the nation’s tenth PM. She becomes the first female to hold such a prestigious position, and this is another statement made by Saied on Wednesday [Source]. The geologist was tasked to form a new government that would stamp out dissatisfaction among Tunisians. According to former parliamentary officer Cherif El Kadhi, Romdhane can nominate a cabinet deemed to be legal and can be approved by swearing in front of the president.
Analysts noted that Romdhane will have limited powers compared to her predecessors since Saied stated that “the government would be responsible to the president,” especially during an emergency period such as unrest in the country, coup attempts, and world crisis.
In a Facebook post on the president’s page, Saied commented on this development and said, “For the first time in Tunisia’s history, a woman will head a government.” To onlookers, such a move might mean that the political environment is progressing in emancipating females who their male counterparts have overlooked. More so, he brought in a woman to help rectify a heated up situation in the territory, which means he is entrusting her with a huge responsibility and trusts her abilities to handle the task. In his announcement, Saied made it clear that this was a historic nomination of a woman and described it as “an honor for Tunisia and a homage to Tunisian women.”
He pledged to collaborate with the new PM “with a firm will and determination to combat corruption and chaos that pervaded many institutions.
Some citizens were happy upon hearing the news. An interviewed banker, Amin Ben Salem, said, “It is a positive sign that a woman will lead the government. I hope she will immediately start saving the country from the specter of bankruptcy. She should quickly look at the problems of Tunisians”.
But others raised red flags regarding the legality of this appointment which did not consult the chamber. Former government minister Samir Dilou described Romdhane’s appointment as “illegal” based on the president’s discretion. Saied declared that he could rule by decree while side-lining the constitution [Source]. Cherif El Kadhi spoke on how the president was making modifications to the ruling system and said, “Saied is against or opposed to many parts of the 2014 constitution – he wants a new regime, and he’s willing to change the political system at probably any cost”. Dillow released a statement on his Facebook. He noted how their cabinet would face “great challenges given the huge difficulties the country’s finances and economy are going through and its fragile sanitary situation” amid the coronavirus.
Who is Najla Romdhane?
Romdhane was born in Tunisia’s central Kairounan province in 1958, and she is a geology professor at the National School of Engineers in the capital Tunis. She once served as a minister in the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to implement programs with the World Bank. Later on, she became the director-general in charge of quality at the Ministry of Higher Education.
In terms of political parties, the new PM has no political affiliation with Anadolu Agency.
Other political parties did not release any statement after the appointment of Romdhane. Because she was given an office of such magnitude without parliament’s approval, the lawmakers can challenge this decision and its legality. But for now, Tunisia is under the two 63-year-old political leaders who have promised to bring change to the country’s current devastating conditions.