Tunisia parliament votes to sack PM Habib Essid

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Tunisia’s parliament has passed a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Habib Essid, effectively dismissing the government of the US-trained economist.

Tunisian PM Habib Essid reacts during a vote in parliament in Tunis. Photo: 30 July 2016

A total of 188 MPs voted to sack Mr Essid, with only three supporting him.

Mr Essid, who has been in office less than two years, has faced criticism for what his opponents say is his failure to push through economic reforms.

President Beji Caid Essebsi last month called for a national unity government to break months of economic turmoil

Unemployed graduates shout slogans during a demonstration urging the government to provide them with job opportunities, in Tunis. Photo: January 2016

Unemployment has worsened since the 2011 revolution, when President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted. More than a third of young people in Tunisia are without work.

Tunisia’s uprising was the first of the Arab Spring, and often hailed as the most successful with the country now functioning as a parliamentary democracy.

The confidence vote came after a month of wrangling over the fate of the prime minister, following pressure on him from the country’s president to resign. Mr Essid refused to step down, citing respect for the constitutional process and instead called on the Tunisian parliament to decide his fate.

In the end, an overwhelming majority of MPs voted to oust him from office. Most lawmakers accused him of failing to deliver on economic reforms needed to ease the country’s high unemployment rates.

In June, the Tunisian president proposed the formation of a new unity government, arguing that the country needed a leadership that could carry out bold reforms.

But some observers believe that the vote is also a consequence of the prime minister’s detachment from party politics. Mr Essid recently accused leading parties of trying to pressure him into making changes to the cabinet, which he says he refused to comply with. It is not clear who will succeed him at this time, but parliament will start negotiations over the matter on Monday.

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