On 14 December, Mehdi Jomaa, Tunisia’s Minister of Industry, was nominated as the country’s new caretaker prime minister until the new elections, which are now scheduled for the end of this year. Jomaa’s appointment took one month longer than originally scheduled under the roadmap (see Risk Monthly of November). Despite broad political agreement, secular parties Nidaa Tounis and the Popular Font did not support his nomination (though they did not vote against him either). Jomaa is expected to form a new technocratic government. Al-Nahda, the moderate Islamist party that has led Tunisia’s coalition government for the past two years after winning the elections for the National Constituent Assembly, has vowed to hand over power by January 14, the third anniversary of the fall of former leader Ben Ali, if a new constitution and electoral law can be concluded by then.

Impact on country risk

The appointment of the new caretaker PM is a positive step that once more shows Tunisia’s ability to follow a more conciliatory political transition than other revolutionary countries in the region. The support of government and opposition parties and of Tunisia’s powerful trade union, UGTT, should strengthen his position. However, the road towards new elections is likely to remain arduous on several fronts. Even if the new constitution and electoral law are concluded in the coming week (which seems a tight schedule) and a new government can be formed soon, this government will be confronted with the same substantial socio- economic and political challenges as the previous one. These include security problems, subdued economic performance, high poverty levels and high unemployment rates, which could feed further popular discontent and opposition against the new government. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s budget deficit is widening and its current account deficit is expected to have risen further last year, as tourism revenues and exports to the EU remain under pressure.

Analyst: The Risk Management Team, r.cecchi@credendogroup.com