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Tunisia parliament backs unity government

The Tunisian Parliament late Friday voted to give confidence to the unity government of Prime Minister-designate Youssef Chahed.

The government was backed by 167 MPs of the 217-member parliament against 22 lawmakers.

Chahed is expected to take over from outgoing prime minister Habib Essid next week.

Addressing parliament, Chahed denied any plans to sell public institutions or change the constitution.

"My cabinet will neither be an austerity government or lay off civil servants," he said.

Chahed, however, warned that an austerity programme, with public-sector job cuts, would be inevitable if Tunisia does not overcome its economic difficulties.

Chahed, an ally of President Beji Caid Essebsi, will be the youngest prime minister in Tunisia's history. He was tasked with drawing up a new government, a few days after the parliament withdrew confidence from Essid's cabinet.

Chahed helped found Tunisia's Tareeq Al-Wasat ("Middle Way") party in the summer of 2011. The party was later merged with the centrist Nidaa Tounes party, which has led the government since 2014.

Tunisia was the birthplace of the "Arab Spring" uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 and forced several autocrat leaders out of power, including Tunisia's Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Since Ben Ali's ouster, Tunisia had seen seven different governments.

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