The new Tunisian cabinet has been sworn in. It comprises of 25 ministers and is headed by Najla Bouden. The new cabinet selection reflects efforts to empower women politically and also underlines Tunisian President Kais Saied’s commitment to his pledge to respond to the Tunisian people’s demands, consolidating the legitimacy of the current regime and increasing its domestic popularity. Saied proved capable in reshaping the political scene in Tunis after toppling Muslim Brotherhood figures and Hichem Mechichi’s government. Saied ordered the formation of a new cabinet that supports his new political direction. The appointment of the new cabinet will enhance political stability, which is required to help Tunisia overcome its economic, social, and health crises, as well as to move steadily towards ending the current "exceptional period."
The new cabinet, formed only 12 days after Bouden’s appointment as Prime Minister on 29 September 2021, has special and significant traits:
1. Ministerial restructuring: The new cabinet restructured some ministries by removing the Ministry of Local Affairs after merging it with the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Finance was also separated from the Ministry of Economy and Planning. The Ministry of Sports and Youth was also separated from the Vocational Training and Employment Ministry. These changes aim to develop the government work to meet citizens’ needs.
2. Significant women’s representation: The new Tunisian cabinet reflects Saied’s vision to empower Tunisian women in politics. It includes nine women ministers, including three in charge of critical ministries, such as the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Commerce; the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Mines; the Ministry of Equipment, Housing, and Territorial Planning; the Ministry of Environment; the Ministry of Women, Family, Children and Seniors; and the Ministry of Culture. This highlights a large representation of women (36% in the new cabinet), constituting more than a third of the ministers.
3. Selection of technocrat ministers: The new cabinet members highlight Saied and Bouden’s intention to select technocrat officials with a high level of expertise and integrity. These include the new Defense Minister Imad Memiche, who is an academic holding a PhD in law and criminal science. He is also an expert in fighting corruption, having worked with the UN and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Saied’s choices were focused on individuals who can help him fight corruption, an integral part of his strategy.
4. Keeping old ministers: Some ministers from the Mechichi government remained in their positions, including the Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi and the Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine. Saied is confident in their abilities to handle several challenges for Tunisia domestically and internationally. He also kept the Youth and Sports Minister Kamel Deguiche and the Education Minister Fethi Sellaouti, while appointing the previous Minister of State Properties Leila Jafal as the Justice Minister.
5. Competent economists: Saied’s selection of the new economic cadres in the cabinet underlines the importance of finding effective and radical solutions to the mounting economic crisis across the country. Sihem Boughdiri, who was appointed as Minister of Finance, spent 28 years working in the ministry as a specialist in drafting tax legislation, financial measures for the finance law, as well as explanatory joint memos. Boughdiri led the working group for tax reform and was part of the negotiation team of the tax reform program organized by the IMF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the EU, and the Arab Fund. She was also part of the negotiation team to remove Tunisia from the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force.
Samir Saied, who has been an expert in banking for over 30 years, was also appointed as Minister of Economy and Planning. These financial and economic competencies will help the country overcome its current economic crisis by creating a new vision for the economy and putting into effect a supplementary financial law to help the new government.
The new cabinet formation is politically significant:
1. A salvation government: Forming a new cabinet in Tunisia at this time requires competent cadres to lift the country from the crushing political, economic, and health crises. These crises intensified over this year and urged the President to announce an "exceptional period," according to Article 80 of the 2014 Tunisian constitution. During this period, Saied froze the parliament and the constitution (with the exception of the first and second chapters) to protect citizen’s rights and freedoms. The mounting economic and social crises expedited the formation of a new cabinet to provide solutions for nationwide instability.
2. Empowering the president: The new government enhances the president’s position as a political force, as he proved over the last period that he can influence the country’s political scene through exploiting the weakness of current political parties and their preoccupation with partisan disputes. Saied pledged to fight political, financial, and managerial corruption. After the cabinet was sworn in, he stated that he would not let anyone interfere with the sovereignty of the state, which enables him to expand his authority and create a new political system wherein he will enjoy additional powers.
3. Consolidating the current regime’s legitimacy: The formation of the new cabinet came amid pressures on Saied to end the "exceptional period." Thus, it is expected to de-escalate domestic tensions and underline the President’s commitment to his pledge through achieving political stability. This will also help the regime gain the support and trust of internal and external parties involved in Tunisian affairs, especially the US, which increases the popularity of the current President and the regime.
In conclusion, forming the new Tunisian cabinet will create political stability that the country needs as it moves towards ending the exceptional period that has been in effect since July 2021. This will positively affect all sectors and mitigate the deterioration of the Tunisian economy. It will also help Tunis regain the trust of international financial institutions and encourage the IMF to accept Tunisian requests for new loans to boost its ailing economy.