Tunisia PM fires five ministers amid growing constitutional crisis

Tunisia PM fires five ministers amid growing constitutional crisis
The Tunisian premier is at odds with the President Kais Saied over a cabinet reshuffle.
2 min read
16 February, 2021
Prime Minister Mechichi (pictured) and President Saied have clashed over the control of ministries [Getty]
Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced on Monday that he had fired five current cabinet ministers, marking the latest development in an ongoing constitutional crisis in the North African country.

conflict between the Tunisian premier and President Kais Saied began in January this year when Mechichi announced a cabinet reshuffle without consulting the president, replacing the five sacked cabinet ministers.

Saied has refused to make the move official by scheduling a date for the new ministers' swearing-in ceremony, despite the fact their appointment was approved by parliament in a vote of confidence late last month.

The president claims that the appointments - which include the key ministries of the interior and justice - were made in violation of Tunisia's constitution, adopted in 2014 three years after longtime dictator Zine Abedine ben Ali fled the country amid nationwide protests.

Saied says that some of the new ministers appointed by Mechichi have been accused of corruption and conflict of interest, although other sources say that there is a lack of substantial evidence to back up those claims.

The constitutional dispute has created a political deadlock, made worse by the fact that Tunisia currently lacks a constitutional court.

The cabinet crisis comes amid a wider conflict between the president and the prime minister, ongoing since Mechichi took office in September last year.

The two have been haggling for control of key ministries including the ministry of the interior.
Read more: A gradual return to dictatorship in Tunisia?

On Wednesday, Mechichi announced the firing of current Justice Minister Mohamed Bousetta, Industry Minister Saloua Sghaier, Youth and Sport Minister Kamel Deguiche, Minister for State Property Leila Jaffel and Agriculture Minister Akisa Bahri.

Those ministers are allied with President Saied.

The justice, industry, state property and agriculture posts have been handed over to four other sitting ministers, while the youth and sport post has been given to the secretary of state at that ministry.

Tunisian law experts are at odds over the dispute.

Some believe the president lacks the power to block cabinet appointments. Others take the view of Saied, a former constitutional law professor, that the premier's actions violate the constitution.

Multiple interpretations of the constitution were made possible by the slow and imperfect drafting of the text in 2014.

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