In ‘honor’ to country, Tunisia appoints first woman as prime minister

President, ruling by decree, selects Najla Bouden to form new government in effort to break political deadlock, end corruption

Screen capture from a June 2020 video of Najla Bouden who was selected to become prime minister of Tunisia, September 29, 2021. (YouTube)
Screen capture from a June 2020 video of Najla Bouden who was selected to become prime minister of Tunisia, September 29, 2021. (YouTube)

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia’s president on Wednesday named geologist Najla Bouden as the country’s first-ever female prime minister-designate, two months after he seized wide-ranging powers.

“The President of the Republic Kais Saied charged Najla Bouden with forming a government as quickly as possible,” said a statement from his office published on Facebook.

Saied on July 25 sacked the government of Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament, lifted MPs’ immunity and took over the judiciary, after months of political deadlock in the face of a pressing economic crisis and mounting coronavirus deaths.

He followed up last week with moves allowing him to rule by decree.

He has faced repeated calls to name a government.

Saied’s office published a video of him meeting Bouden in his office and charging her with presenting a cabinet “in the coming hours or days.”

He repeatedly emphasized the “historic” nature of the nomination of a woman, calling it “an honor for Tunisia and a homage to Tunisian women.”

Saied said the new government’s main mission would be to “put an end to the corruption and chaos that have spread throughout many state institutions.”

Bouden will be the Tunisia’s tenth prime minister since a 2011 uprising overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring revolts.

The country has won international plaudits for its democratic transition but many Tunisians have seen little improvement in their lives and have become disillusioned with a dysfunctional and corrupt political process.

Saied’s moves placed vast executive powers in the hands of the president, who will himself head the cabinet.

His rulings on September 22 also extended the suspension of parliament.

Najla Bouden, the same age as Saied at 63, is a former director at PromESsE, a higher education reform project, and has held senior positions at Tunisia’s higher education ministry.

Originally from Kairouan, she is a French-educated geologist with a doctorate in geological engineering and is a lecturer at Tunisia’s national engineering school.

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