Romdhane named first woman Prime Minister of Tunisia by President Saied | Tunisia News
President Kais Saied appoints Najla Bouden Romdhane as new prime minister, nearly two months after taking power.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane, a little-known university engineer who has worked with the World Bank, as the country’s first female prime minister, nearly two months after seizing most power in a move her enemies are calling a coup.
Romdhane will take office at a time of national crisis, the democratic gains won during a revolution of 2011 being questioned and while a major threat weighs on public finances.
Saied sacked the former prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed broad executive powers in July, and has come under increasing national and international pressure to form a new government.
Last week he dismissed much of the constitution to say he could rule largely by decree.
He appointed Romdhane under arrangements he announced last week and asked him to quickly form a new government, the presidency said on social media.
Saied’s office released a video of him meeting Romdhane in his office and accusing him of presenting a cabinet “in the hours or days to come.”
He repeatedly underlined the “historic” nomination of a woman, describing her as “an honor for Tunisia and a tribute to Tunisian women”.
Saied said the main mission of the new government would be “to end the corruption and chaos which has spread to many state institutions”.
The new government must meet the demands and dignity of Tunisians in all areas, including health, transport and education, he added.
Romdhane will be the tenth Tunisian prime minister since a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking the Arab Spring uprisings.
The country is facing a rapidly looming public finance crisis after years of economic stagnation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and internal political struggles.
He won international praise for his democratic transition, but many Tunisians saw little improvement in their lives and became disillusioned with a dysfunctional and corrupt political process.
The new government will have to act very quickly to seek financial support for the budget and debt repayment after Saied’s takeover in July suspended talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Saied’s decisions have placed vast executive powers in the hands of the president, who will head the cabinet himself.
Bernard Smith of Al Jazeera, in a report from Tunis, said Romdhane would come under considerable pressure as she was “thrown into the spotlight”.
“Usually, in the Tunisian constitutional system, the president appoints a prime minister, who then appoints the members of his cabinet and all of this has to be approved by parliament,” Smith said.
“But the president suspended parliament – so he appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane prime minister, but there will be no parliamentary approval on this,” he said.
Former parliamentary officer Cherif El Kadhi said Romdhane could form a cabinet that will be “formally approved” by an oath-taking ceremony before the president.
“Saeed is against or opposed to many parts of the 2014 constitution – he wants a new regime and he’s really ready to change the political system at any cost,” El Kadhi told Al Jazeera from Tunis.
Despite opposition from many political parties to his latest initiatives, Saeed relies mainly on “the enormous popular support he has so far,” he added.
The president is moving forward with “changing the constitution, the political system and its philosophy of democracy from the bottom up,” El Kadhi said.
Romdhane – who is the same age as Saied, 63 – is a former director of PromESsE, a higher education reform project, and has held senior positions in the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education.
Originally from Kairouan, she is a geologist of French training, holder of a doctorate in geological engineering and lecturer at the national engineering school of Tunisia.