Tunisian President denies any family tie with new premier


TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi denied any family tie with the prime minister he has just nominated following criticism that the two were related by marriage.

The 90-year-old leader said Thursday that Youssef Chahed “is not a member of my family” and denounced a “well-orchestrated campaign” against him.

Sections of the media and opposition members have said a distant family connection between the two men influenced the nomination.

Critics have also cited the lack of experience of Chahed, 41, who came to politics after the revolution that toppled long-time autocratic leader President Zine El Abiding Ben Ali in 2011. His ouster inspired the Arab Spring.

Essebsi told international media representatives that he decided to change the government because of the country’s deteriorating situation.

“If we were to keep following the same path, we were heading into a tunnel,” he said.

Chahed, 41, an agricultural engineer by training, was minister for local affairs in the government that fell over the weekend in a no-confidence vote.

Essebsi said Chahed was “the most qualified among all potential candidates” and that he is “a capable young (man) in good health, with important projects to fight terrorism, corruption, black market and tax evasion”.

Chahed’s nomination is likely to be approved by parliament. Lawmakers have a month to do so. Five parties support him, including the two largest — his own Nida Tones, founded by the president, and the Islamist Ananda — which together hold a comfortable majority in parliament.

Chahed has already started consultations to form a new government.

Tunisia suffered two major jihadi attacks last year — at a beach resort and at the well-known Bardot Museum — that killed around 60 people.

The North African nation also faces inflation, high unemployment rate and a slump in tourism due to security issues.

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