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World News

Tunisia PM designate to form technocratic government without parties

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s prime minister-designate said on Monday he would form a purely technocratic government following wrangling among political parties over the formation of the country’s next administration.

The decision by Hichem Mechichi will likely put him in confrontation with the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, the largest political group in parliament, which announced it would oppose the formation of a non-political government.

However, the proposal for a government of independent technocrats without political parties will win support from the powerful UGTT trade union and some other parties, including Tahya Tounes and Dustoury el Hor.

Mechichi said that the government’s focus would mainly be on social hardship and the weak economy, explaining that “while the political dispute continues, some Tunisians have not found drinking water”.

Protests have erupted in the country’s interior this year over widespread unemployment, lack of development and poor public services in health, electricity and water.

Mechichi, who was proposed by President Kais Saied last month to succeed Elyes Fakhfakh, said his priority would also be to rescue the struggling public finances. Fakhfakh resigned over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Tunisia is struggling to revive its collapsed economy since a 2011 revolution that ended the rule of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring.

The government said last month it had asked four creditor countries to delay debt repayments, as it announced more pessimistic economic and budget forecasts for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The request on debt repayments underscores the dire condition of the public finances, already a source of concern before the coronavirus crisis pummelled the global economy.

Mechichi, 46, an independent, needs this month to form a government capable of winning a confidence vote in parliament by a simple majority, or the president will dissolve parliament and call for another election.

Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Chris Reese, William Maclean

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