Tunisian prime minister wins confidence vote amid crisis

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian lawmakers approved Hichem Mechichi as the country’s new prime minister after pressing him for 11 hours over how he will bring the country out of an economic and social crisis that has driven a rise in migration to Europe and been worsened by the virus pandemic.

Mechichi and his proposed government won a confidence vote early Wednesday after an all-day debate, with 134 votes in favor and 67 against. No one abstained.

The 46-year-old former interior minister called on the new Cabinet to get to work immediately to “save the country.”

His government is Tunisia’s third since October and the ninth since the revolution that brought down an autocratic regime in 2011 and triggered the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

“Ten years after the revolution, the dream of a new Tunisia that assures liberty, dignity and equity has transformed into disillusion, disappointment and despair, which has pushed a large number of Tunisians to take boats of death,” he said, referring to the dangerous migrant trips across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe

He presented a reform plan aimed at shoring up public finances, fighting tax evasion, and investing in impoverished regions. Lack of opportunity in those regions helped spark the 2010-2011 revolt, and has pushed many young Tunisians to migrate and some to join Islamic extremist groups.

Tunisia’s economy was already struggling when the virus hit, hurting the country’s important tourism sector among others.

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