Old regime's Essid named to form new Tunisia govt

AFP , Monday 5 Jan 2015

File Photo: Habib Essid in Tunis May, 16, 2011 (Photo: AP)

Ex-interior minister Habib Essid, who held a number of posts under Tunisia's ousted regime, has been tasked with forming a government as prime minister designate, he told reporters Monday.

Essid, a top interior ministry civil servant under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, made the announcement after a meeting with Beji Caid Essebsi who last month won Tunisia's first free presidential election.

"I had the honour of being received today by the president who tasked me with forming the new government," Essid said at the presidential palace.

"Consultations with (political) parties and civil society will begin," he added, without giving a date for the launch of talks.

The prime minister designate has a month -- renewable once -- to form a cabinet and win parliamentary approval for his line-up.

His name was put forward by Essebsi's Nidaa Tounes party which won October parliamentary elections securing 86 of the 217 seats.

Essid, 65, held government positions without ever being minister under Ben Ali's iron-fisted regime but returned after Tunisia's 2011 revolution.

After a stint as interior minister, he served as security adviser to prime minister Hamadi Jebali of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

"After consultations, both within the party and with other parties, there is consensus around the name of Habib Essid as candidate for the post of head of government," Nidaa Tounes vice president Mohamed Ennaceur told reporters.

"He is an independent figure... who has skills and experience," Ennaceur said, singling out his "knowledge of security matters."

The prime minister designate will need the support of other parties in parliament for his line-up, as the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes does not hold a majority.

Ennahda, which came second in the polls, has not ruled out joining a coalition with Nidaa Tounes.

A rise in Islamist extremism since the revolution and an ailing economy are among the challenges facing the next Tunisian government.

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