ALL EYES ON TUNISIA AFTER LEADER IS OUSTED

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Aug. 1, 2016 (GIN) – Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, has now fired its own prime minister with a nearly unanimous vote of no-confidence in their 67 year old leader.

The motion of no-confidence passed with 118 votes, more than the needed 109-vote threshold. Only three Members of Parliament supported Habib Essid. The others abstained.

The result was not surprising in light of the nation’s problems which include high youth unemployment, a collapsing tourism industry and a series of militant attacks since Mr. Essid came to power 18 months ago.

Critics of Mr Essid called his government incapable of finding solutions or giving the people hope. Last January, a curfew was imposed when the country witnessed some of the worst social unrest since the 2011 uprising. After a week of curfew, Mr. Essid expressed sympathy for the protestors. “There is no dignity without work,” he said. “You can’t tell someone who has nothing to eat to stay patient.”

The unemployment crisis was highlighted tragically by the tragic death of a jobseeker who climbed a utility pole and was electrocuted. He had been fighting for a job for two years.

Tunisia has largely avoided political violence since the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali that started with an underemployed street vendor taking his life on a public street.

In a speech, Essid said he accepted full responsibility for the failure of the government, according to Radio Jawhara, and urged lawmakers to cooperate with the next administration to help tackle economic, social and security challenges.

As Essid prepares to step down, funds have begun to flow to Tunisia for economic support. The French presidency has pledged $1.1 billion and in May, the IMF approved a $2.88 billion, four year loan aimed at supporting Tunisia’s economic and financial reform program.

Economic growth slowed to 0.8 per cent last year from 2.3 per cent in 2014, and unemployment nationwide stood at 15 per cent at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, Tunisian media expressed doubt that Mr. Essid’s ouster would solve the country’s problems. “Will the departure of Habib Essid and his team resolve the enormous difficulties facing the country?” wrote the news group Le Quotidien.

“The biggest fear today is a political void,” said La Presse. w/pix of H. Essid

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