Tunisian President Kais Saied has appointed Najla Bouden as new prime minister, two months after the resignation of her predecessor. This gives Tunisia the first female prime minister in the Arab world. The 62-year-old Bouden, professor of geosciences and previously employed at the Ministry of Education, has little political and economic experience.
In the past, women politicians in the Arab world rarely held important political posts. Bouden‘s appointment is a tribute to all Tunisian women, according to Saied. He went on to say that she should form a cabinet as soon as possible because a lot of time has already been lost. He was referring to the two months that Tunisia is now out of government.
Turmoil to take over president
Last weekend, thousands of Tunisians once again took to the streets to demonstrate against Saied’s grab of power. In July he fired the then Prime Minister and suspended Parliament. The country is not only in a political crisis, but also faces serious economic problems.
Last week, Saied, who was elected in 2019, drew even more power. He took measures to govern by decree, pending the amendment of the Constitution. The government will also have to be accountable to the President and no longer Parliament. This effectively puts parliament offside. Opponents speak of a coup. Pressure on the President to appoint a new Prime Minister increased.
‘Making Good Ornament’
Journalist Faïrouz ben Salah, who lives in Tunis and has also written regularly for Dutch newspapers, is skeptical about Bouden‘s appointment. According to the publicist, it is likely that Saied chose a woman to favor the Western world following his takeover of power. “If things get tough, you can gain support in Europe if you make a feminist move.”
Ben Salah also points out that the new Prime Minister has no political or administrative experience and is in fact the third consecutive official appointed by the President in a short period of time. “Saied does not seek opposition. He’s not really looking for a new government, but for officials who do exactly what he says.”
She continues: “Because there are no more ministers, Saied has worked closely with civil service in recent years. Over the last few months he has met obedient officials and they are now being assigned posts.” According to Ben Salah, the fact that the President announced that there will be a new cabinet within hours and a maximum of a few days, suggests that he already knows exactly who will be in the government.
More protests expected
She expects the President‘s course to increase resistance among the population. “The economy is bankrupt and everyone is waiting for economic improvement. It was hoped that Saied would appoint a prime minister with a sense of economy, but there is no plan. That will probably lead to more protest.”
Instead, the president would like to use the fight against corruption, as he promised in the elections. “But at Saied, you’ll soon be corrupt. He is likely to abuse this intention to arrest more opponents,” expects journalist Ben Salah.