FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's prime minister designate Elyes Fakhfakh speaks at the Assembly of People's Representatives in Tunis, Tunisia February 26, 2020. REUTERS
The main party in Tunisia's ruling coalition has enlisted the support of two opposition parties to call a vote of no-confidence in the government over suspected conflicts of interest involving the prime minister.
Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on Monday he would reshuffle the cabinet in the coming days in what appeared to be a step to remove the moderate Islamist Ennahda's six ministers from the government to stem the crisis.
But Ennahda’s swift response to call the vote and rally support could make Fakhfkah's cabinet the first government not to last six months in a country that has been working to rebuild its shattered economy since the uprising of 2011 sparked the Arab Spring revolts and brought in democratic rule.
An independent member of parliament published documents last month indicating the prime minister, from a small liberal party, owned shares in companies that had won deals worth 44 million dinars ($15 million) from the state.
He says he has done nothing wrong, but said he would resign if investigations being led by an independent anti-corruption committee, a parliamentary committee and a judge found he had.
Fakhfakh was designated prime minister by the president in January after Ennahda failed to form a government after months of wrangling. He brought parties from across the spectrum into his cabinet - but they have disagreed on several policy areas.
The list calling the no-confidence vote, to be held in two weeks, has been signed by 105 lawmakers including Ennahda, the opposition Heart of Tunisia and the Karama parties, as well as some independents.
Ennahda and it allies need only more four members to reach the 109 votes needed to win the vote and oust the government.
"We submitted the official request, due to strong suspicions of conflicts of interest involving the premier ... which could rise to a suspicion of corruption," Oussama Klifi a senior Heart of Tunisia leader, told reporters.
Although Tunisia has managed to move peacefully to democracy after throwing off autocratic rule, successive governments have failed to tackle social hardship and unemployment.
Tunisia has already asked four countries to delay debt repayments, as it announced more pessimistic economic and budget forecasts for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.