Beji Caid Essebsi was sworn in as Tunisia’s new president on 31 December. Essebsi won 55.6% of the votes in a runoff election on 21 December against outgoing president Marzouki. President Essebsi, an 88- year-old former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, was the candidate of the Nidaa Tounis party, which had emerged as the winner in the parliamentary elections on 26 October, having won 86 out of 217 seats, more than Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that was previously the largest party and now won 69 seats in the assembly. Ennahda did not field a candidate for the presidency, stating that it did not want to dominate the political system. Nidaa Tounis, which positioned itself as a secular alternative to Ennahda and includes members of the old Ben Ali regime, nominated Habib Essid as prime minister to form a government in the coming month. Essid served as Interior Minister for ten months, after the fall of Ben Ali in 2011.

Impact on country risk

After the approval of a new constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014, the country’s political transition is now formally completed, four years after Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, triggering a wave of protests throughout the Arab world. The transition has proceeded less tumultuously than in many other countries in the region, being characterised by a more compromising stance of political players. However, important challenges remain. The new government, when formed, still needs to deliver tangible economic results to a population that continues to be confronted with an unemployment rate that is higher than in 2010. While Nidaa Tounis’ political dominance may facilitate effective policymaking, it also makes the party prone to renewed dissatisfaction and protests. Tunisia’s external environment also remains difficult, particularly because of instability in neighbouring Libya and slow economic growth in Europe (the country’s largest export market), although lower oil prices have a positive effect on the oil-importing country.

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