Tunisia’s Mechichi Cabinet in Its Way to Quit

Zouhair Makhlouf

Mr Hicham El Mechichi is the third prime minister among those appointed within only one year. He won 134 votes in the Peoples’ Assembly but this victory has been followed with depressions as he found himself facing the responsibility of bearing the burdens of a heavy legacy of failures in economic, social, developmental and even political files. So sadly, these failures prevailed after the Tunisian Freedom and Dignity Revolution due to the heavy burden stemming from the repercussions of an entire decade of setbacks.

Will the tenth prime minister since the 2011 revolution be able to overcome the dilemmas of this legacy and these burdens that are too heavy for the mountain to bear? Will he be able to meet the challenges that lie in his way? Is he able to create a political balance for his government amid the conflict between the presidency on the one hand and Parliament and political actors on the other hand? Will he be able to meet the desires of the social actors and the protesters’ demands without harming the economic actors and the requirements of international donors?

Actually, the answer to these key questions requires an accurate diagnosis for the economic, financial, health, social and political situation in the Tunisian country and then we can conclude the possibilities and hypotheses for solutions.

1- Economic challenge:

For nearly a decade, Tunisia has been in a state of democratic and political transition in which economic activity slowed down, foreign and domestic investment declined, value of the Tunisian local currency deteriorated, production declined, prices increased, social demands increased, debt rose to the level of 93% of GDP and taxes increased along with economic downturn exceeded 7%, unemployment will be more than 20%, negative development level  reached to 21% and a borrowing rate of more than $ 5.5 billion (14 billion Tunisian dinars). This bad situation has been severely worsened by the crisis of Covid 19 as exports stopped, tourism sector has become paralyzed, small and medium enterprises approached bankruptcy and national institutions including airlines have been completely recessed and bankrupted.

Despite the aforementioned, we still do not believe that facing such challenges can’t be faced by a government that does not have a supportive parliamentary belt, and therefore this government will find itself facing economic pressures that will not allow it to withstand and survive for more than a few months ( 6 or 8 months).

2- Social challenge

In fact, the Tunisian revolution was like an appetizer for demands among all social groups, which prompted the government to fulfill social entitlements including wages increase and frequent assignments to the public service (480,000 employees in 2010 reached to 700,000 employees in 2020), which negatively affected the balance of public finances and deepened the inability to face the deficit except by using the mechanism of borrowing and indebtedness, that later prompted the government to take urgent measures to stop wage increases, stop assignments, open dialogues with syndicates, and think about the total or partial devolution of public institutions with increasing taxes, removing subsidies on basic commodities, striking the parallel economy that has become representing more than 60% of the national economy and ignoring the social demands that have disrupted the production of oil and phosphates to the extent that made the state unable to liberate the sources of its production from obstruction and disruption.  .

 

We believe that the government is unable to confront such challenges that will intensely increase in the coming days especially amid more exacerbated social movements in unprecedented large and dangerous size. This case will make the government helpless and not be able either to take traumatic measures to get out of the crisis and to protect the purchasing power or to confront the increase in unemployment among those having higher degrees and always threat to flock in the streets and disrupt activities.

3- Political challenge

This government was born from the womb of dangerous political disputes that toppled the government of Al-Fakhfakh and almost destroyed political stability and brought Mechichi who was appointed by the President of the Republic but then lost the trust of the parliament before even having it due to some ministerial appointments that were reported to be by intervention of the President without the prime minister consent which prompted the Ennahda Party to change its mind and vote in favor of Mechichi in order to take over from the president who is believed that he interferes in every single issue. From his side, the president announced by more than one way rivalry to Ennahda Party and targeted it with implicit accusations and threats. Indeed, this tensioned atmosphere can’t be in the interest of the Mechichi Cabinet, instead, it blocked its way to achieve political balance amid such disclosed conflict between the president and his allies in Parliament from the Democracy Bloc (the People’s Movement and the Democratic Current), the Reform Bloc, the Long Live Tunisia bloc, and the National Bloc On one hand, and Ennahda Party and its allies (Heart of Tunisia, the Dignity Coalition and the Future Bloc) on the other hand, which foretells a hot, raging parliamentary year that may destroy political, economic and societal stability and undermine government stability in the next six months, especially that this government does not have a parliamentary and political belt and has chosen to be only an administrative cabinet .

Moreover, the largest party, Ennahdha, has been squeezed into a tactical pitfall and consequently it puts the cabinet in a situation like it has to choose whether to be with them or with the President who always threatens the party to be held liable or to be landed in court or judicial, political or security issues.

4- External challenge

The Libyan situation and its political, social, economic and diplomatic repercussions were reflected on the Tunisian interior, and the opposing statements of the Tunisian President the Parliament spokesperson negatively affected the Tunisian diplomatic performance and the international relations between Tunisia and the all parties overlapping in the Libyan issue, especially after the sudden dismissal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Besides, the Tunisian diplomatic situation regarding the Palestinian issue and neutrality of the Tunisian diplomatic approach away from international pressures and external dictates may explain more the hypothesis of undermining the stability of the government in the coming days. Illegal immigration has also brought the resentment of European neighbor Italy due to Tunisia’s failure to curb the irregular migration machine.

5- Financial challenge

The public finances are experiencing a serious deficit, which has affected the general balances and the trust of international parties in successive governments, which contributed to deepening the severity of the economic downturn. Thus, donor parties decided to postpone the opening of dialogues and understandings about the possibility of granting Tunisia loans enable it to get out of its economic and financial crises. The most important challenge in dealing with the Tunisian crisis is the mechanism without which the government will find itself facing bankruptcy, complete inability to pay debts and redemption of employees’ wages in the first months of the new fiscal year 2021.      And if we add to all this the repercussions of Corona virus, we will inevitably reach to the result that El-Mechichi cabinet will not be able to survive and withstand for more than the next six or eight months.

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