Who will succeed Mechichi as Tunisian PM after the president’s ‘coup’?

Who will succeed Mechichi as Tunisian PM after the president’s ‘coup’?
Following President Kais Saied’s controversial sacking of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and dissolution of parliament, the names of three Tunisian politicians have been put forward as candidates for the premiership.
3 min read
28 July, 2021
Tunisia has been without a prime minister since Sunday [Getty]

Wednesday marked Tunisia’s third day without a head of government, following President Kais Saied’s sacking of his political rival, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, and dissolution of the parliament.

A number of names have been put forward as possible successors to Mechichi, including former Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine, former Finance Minister Mohamed Nizar Yaiche, and the former general secretary of the Democratic Current political party, Mohamed Abbou.

The president's power grab – widely decried as a coup against the constitution – has thrown the country's future into doubt, with fears over the future of democracy in Tunisia.

Taoufik Charfeddine – Saied’s trusted confidant

Taoufik Charfeddine, who currently heads the Human Rights Commission, is the most prominent of the possible candidates who will succeed Mechichi, due to his closeness to President Saied.

A lawyer by profession, Charfeddine is trusted by the president and has had a strong political relationship with him. The 53-year-old oversaw Saied’s presidential campaign in the city of Sousse and the surrounding area in 2019.

Mechichi sacked Charfeddine as interior minister due to his total loyalty to Saied and his insistence on coordinating directly with the president. Charfeddine would bypass the now former prime minister on many occasions in order to do this.

Charfeddine is not a member of any political party and is considered independent. He also has previous experience running a key ministry and this makes him a strong candidate for the premiership.

Nizar Yaiche – economic expert

Nizar Yaiche, who was finance minister in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Elias Fekhfekh, is also considered to be a strong contender to succeed Mechichi. His profession as an economist gives him an advantage at a time when Tunisia needs a leader who can steer it through the economic and social crises it is facing.

A 46-year-old graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris, he has worked in a number of local and international economic and financial institutions and enjoys the confidence of Saied.

In March, he gave a public presentation to Saied regarding Tunisia’s economic and financial situation and national budget and the threat that this posed to national security, pointing out possible solutions and reforms to lead the country out of its crisis.

Some observers predict that Charfeddine will be appointed as prime minister and Yaiche as finance minister.

Mohamed Abbou – ministerial experience

Mohamed Abbou, who was previously the general secretary of the Democratic Current political party and a minister in the government of former Prime Minister Fekhfekh, has also been named as a possible candidate.

The 55-year-old is considered an experienced lawyer and politician, having held ministerial posts in two governments. He was previously a member of former President Moncef Marzouki's Congress for the Republic party, and between 2012 and 2013 was deputy prime minister in the coalition government of Hamadi Jebali.

Like Charfeddine, Abbou is considered close to Saied and has strongly defended the president's controversial decisions.