The consultations on the formation of the national unity government appear to hit the ground running. Prime Minister-designate Youssef Chahed has launched them as soon he obtained the free hand of the President of the Republic, Beji Caid Essebsi, who himself had shown an equal speed to forge ahead in his initiative even if this incurs the wrath of some of the opposition which yet embraced the initiative. It accuses him of abusing his constitutional prerogative by expediting in a flash the part relating to the profile of the PM explicitly stipulated by the “Carthage Document”.
We may consider in this urgency the concern of both to make up for the lost time, the one squandered for two months to dissuade the outgoing PM from seeking a confidence vote from the parliament and therefore submitting his resignation.
But there is even what is more urgent. The country has an urgent need for a government that starts to work on the go without having to exhaust the time prescribed by the Basic Law, while burning issues pile up no solution.
Consultations are certainly needed. However, they must not turn into haggling over portfolios, party bidding and partisan maneuvering, in other words that rat race usually associated with any government formation process where each struggles to arrange a benefit to which he feels entitled.
It is not known if Youssef Chahed has the audacity and ability to waive that “coercion”, but he has already asserted that “it will be a government of national experts, a young government and that will be frank with the people from the beginning about the economic and social situation of the country.”
The fact is that the formation of a new government is still a future promise. And it will be for Youssef Chahed not to make that this hope is denied. First, by assuming a strong “margin of autonomy” vis-à-vis the President of the Republic more inclined than ever to come out of his posture as second leader of the State with powers strictly defined by the Constitution recognizing his limited powers, except for security and foreign affairs.
The new head of government, which is in addition a unity government, should especially avoid falling back into the status of prime minister that would undermine all his scope of authority, placing him under the supervision of the Head of State to whom he owes his appointment.
Moreover, will Youssef Chahed have complete latitude to choose his ministers? Here is another pitfall that awaits him as candidates from the coalition parties and elsewhere. Especially as the race to sovereignty portfolios will be bitterer and more epic, from the group of four that supports more the government. It is hard to imagine, for example, that Ennahda movement settles for a back seat as was the case in the government of Essid, while its tenors are constantly trumpeting that the presence of the party in the ministerial team should reflect its political weight at the House of People’s Representatives and elsewhere. And then
there is the UGTT that the President was adamant to associate with his national unity government. While endorsing lip the appointment of Youssef Chahed, it has given the impression that it is around the corner, first so as not to assume any failure and then to have a governmental relay to get its claims met, if not it will obtain them by all “activist means available.”
It makes wonder if the new head of government will have a free hand in both upstream and downstream. If it happens in any optimistic assumption that he is able to evacuate the question of the formation of his cabinet, will he have all the resources to address the appalling challenges on which his predecessors have broken teeth?
The five priorities he has set and listed in the correct order, it is true, can they be implemented with the means available on board? More specifically will he have the sinews of war necessary to conduct his missions and lead the country safely?
Will the Tunisians show less impatience to see their expectations met and accept the necessarily painful sacrifices that the new head of government promised them? So many nagging questions to which the new tenant will have to answer, and soon, under pain of being snubbed.
We can still consider as encouraging the promise made by Youssef Chahed to tell the truth to the people. It is necessary to add here that he does it without jabbering, as great orator and good communicator without necessarily being the long sought charismatic.