TUNIS: Tunisia’s secular Tahya Tounes party, founded this year, elected Prime Minister Youssef Chahed as its president on Sunday, confirming expectations of his leadership months before parliamentary and presidential elections.
The new party was formed in January after months of wrangling within ruling coalition party Nidaa Tounes, resulting in the resignation of dozens of leaders.
The fragile coalition, which also includes the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, is struggling to pass economic reforms demanded by foreign lenders.
Tahya Tounes party (Long Live Tunisia) includes ministers in the government of Chahed and dozens of lawmakers. The party said it is seeking a comfortable win in the next elections to pursue stalled economic reforms.
Elections are due by the end of this year, with Ennahda, Tunisia’s largest party, favored to win, according to polls.
Chahed will continue as Prime minister until the next elections and will not resign, political sources said.
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 the kind of violent upheavals seen in Syria and Libya and despite suffering economic woes and militant attacks.
But nine cabinets since then have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, including high inflation and unemployment. Impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, who have kept the country afloat.
Meanwhile, the controversial founder of a major private television channel in Tunisia has said he will run for presidency in November polls.
Nabil Karoui, 50, announced his decision late Monday in a live interview with his broadcaster Nessma TV, playing up his highly-publicised charity work.
Karoui is looking to take over from outgoing President Beji Caid Essesbi, 92, whom he backed during the last election in 2014.
The media boss has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his ambitions.
Karoui has launched high-profile charity campaigns in recent years, handing out food and clothing in front of cameras from Nessma, which he launched in 2007.
"I met people, I helped them, neighbourhood by neighbourhood," he said as he announced his candidacy.
"I saw the difficulty in which these people live."
Karoui said he had drawn together a group of experts to compile a programme and list of candidates for parliamentary elections in October.
Tunisia's broadcast watchdog last year seized equipment from Nessma after accusing it of trying to "influence" state bodies.
Essebsi, Tunisia's first democratically elected president, said in April he did not plan to stand for re-election but would make way for someone younger.
None of the country's main political parties have yet announced their candidates for the presidential polls.
* With AFP and Reuters