In a statement on the sidelines of the National Symposium on Major Reforms held April 11 in Gammarth, a northern suburb of Tunis, Saida Garrach, the spokeswoman for the Tunisian president, confirmed that the president does not wish to fire Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
“Talks about President Beji Caid Essebsi’s intentions to dismiss Chahed are politically baseless. Some Tunisian political parties are trying to foment trouble,” Garrach said in statement to Shems FM radio. "Chahed’s government has the president’s support and confidence and is cooperating with the presidency.”
Garrach considered the claims about a crisis between Essebsi and Chahed as mere rumors by some political parties, without being more specific, that were designed to create confusion in the political sphere and shake the good relations between the government and the president.
Tunisian Assabah daily reported April 12 a major political crisis between the president and the prime minister, months after the latter announced his war on corruption, which led to the arrest of businessmen affiliated with Nidaa Tunis.
There have been talks behind the scenes that Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president’s son, and his cronies are seeking to oust Chahed, but this step is likely to be postponed until after the municipal elections slated for the end of 2018.
Essebsi’s son has objected to Chahed’s war on corruption, arguing that it mainly targets businesspersons affiliated with Nidaa Tunis.
During his speech on Tunisia’s Independence Day March 20, Essebsi spoke at length of the government’s predicament.
“This is the prerogative of the parties that signed the Carthage Declaration [on July 13, 2016],” Essebsi said.
This document was signed by a group of political parties in support of the national unity government.
He also noted that the “current situation necessitates that all parties be unified to come out of the crisis.”
Tunisia has been facing an unprecedented economic crisis, as the country’s foreign reserves took a nosedive following the devaluation of the Tunisian dinar, the decline in investment as well as the continuous disruptions in phosphate exports because of the social unrest in the mining area of Gafsa in the west of the country.
Meanwhile, Chahed is continuing on with a package of reforms, much to the objection of the Tunisian unions that argue the reforms involve excessive waste for public institutions.
As part of his anti-corruption campaign, Chahed is pushing to stop the secondment of personnel and reduce the number of public employees, in addition to reducing subsidies for basic foodstuffs and the privatization of some public institutions, which would be of great profit to the state as a result of the taxes leveraged on the private sector.