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Tunisia ruling coalition fails to agree on economic reforms, cabinet reshuffle

People shout slogans during a protest against new budget law and price hikes as they march to the governorship building in Tunis, Tunisia on January 12, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]
People shout slogans during a protest against new budget law and price hikes as they march to the governorship building in Tunis, Tunisia on 12 January 2018 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia’s ruling coalition has failed to agree on a new economic reform plan and a cabinet reshuffle, officials said on Monday, in a new political setback as the International Monetary Funds (IMF) prepares to review the next loan tranche.

The North African country has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering violent upheaval, as happened in Syria and Libya.

But since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which have kept the country afloat.

Officials from the two ruling parties, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda, and labour and employers’ unions agreed last week to start a new economic programme.

But talks broke off on Monday after the parties failed to hammer out details, said a spokeswomen for President Beji Caid Essebsi, who had been hosting the negotiations.

Ennahda had rejected calls from the Nidaa Tounes to sack Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, a technocrat, or conduct a major cabinet reshuffle.

“We cannot agree to change the government at this sensitive time,” its leader Rashid Ghannouchi told reporters. “Ennahda has been known as a party which makes concessions but this time we cannot do so, in the interests of the country which needs stability.”

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