Tunisian PM designate expects government next week: report

Tunisian President Kais Saied shakes hands with Prime Minister designate Habib Jemli in Tunis, Tunisia, in this handout pictured obtained by Reuters on November 15, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2019

Tunisian PM designate expects government next week: report

  • “I expect to finish forming the government next week,” the PM told Reuters

CARTHAGE: Tunisia’s prime minister-designate Habib Jemli expects to form a government next week with political independents holding most of the important portfolios, he said on Tuesday.
Jemli, who was named to the job by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which finished first in October’s election, added that he would continue with economic reforms begun under previous governments, but would implement them differently.
“I expect to finish forming the government next week,” he told Reuters in an interview at the government office in Carthage.
October’s parliamentary election resulted in a deeply fractured parliament with no party winning more than a quarter of seats, complicating the process of coalition building.
Jemli said he would give the interior, justice, defense and foreign ministries to political independents who are unaffiliated with the big parties and that Ennahda understood this.
His choice of finance minister is somebody with a high local and international profile able to negotiate with foreign partners, Jemli said, without revealing the person’s name.
“Economic reforms and combating widespread corruption in all parts of the state will be my priority,” he said.
“Reforms are necessary, but with a new methodology. They must be in partnership with the labor union,” he added.
The union has opposed some government efforts to tighten public spending while foreign lenders have urged lower deficits.
The issue of corruption was thrust further into the political spotlight this autumn with the election of President Kais Saied, a political independent, a week after the parliamentary vote.
Saied, who as president has fewer immediate powers than the prime minister, ran an austere campaign that spent very little money and was portrayed by supporters as a figure of rigid personal integrity.
Tunisia’s economy has suffered years of low growth since the 2011 revolution that ended autocracy and introduced democratic rule, with successive governments struggling to create jobs and tame inflation.
Big increases in state jobs and public sector pay after the revolution contributed to large deficits and growing government debt, which the outgoing administration has tried to rein in through reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Jemli said he planned to digitise more government functions, to improve governance of state-run companies, where performance has drastically declined since the revolution, and reduce bureaucracy.
Previous governments had gone wrong in failing to stick to the pledges they had made to international lenders regarding economic growth and the size of the public sector wage bill, he said.


Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

Updated 27 September 2020

Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

  • Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison
  • Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners after photos of her emerged from a match with her headscarf around her neck

LONDON: The Iranian chess referee forced to seek asylum in the UK after letting her hijab slip during a match in Shanghai this year has revealed another reason she may never be able to return to her country — her secret Jewish heritage.
Shohreh Bayat told The Daily Telegraph that she had to conceal her family background in her native Iran.
“If they knew I had Jewish background, I would never be general secretary of the Iranian chess federation,” Bayat told the British newspaper.
The leading referee said she had heard anti-Jewish remarks made by chess officials in Iran.
Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners and received death threats after photos of her emerged from the Women’s World Chess Championship in January with her red headscarf around her neck rather than covering her head.
“All my life was about showing a fake image of myself to society because they wanted me to be an image of a religious Muslim woman, which I wasn’t,” Bayat said, speaking about the Iranian regime.
The 33-year-old said she is not a fan of the hijab, but felt she had to comply — even if that meant covering only a tiny amount of hair.
Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison.
After being photographed at the world championship match with her hijab around her neck, Bayat said she was warned by family and friends not to return home.
“My mobile was full of messages saying: ‘Please, don’t come back, they will arrest you’,” she told the newspaper.
“I woke up the following day and saw that the (Iranian) federation removed my picture — it was like I didn’t exist,” she said.
Despite death threats, Bayat continued refereeing the second leg of the tournament in Vladivostok, ignoring calls from Iranian officials for a public apology.
At the end of January, she changed her return ticket and traveled to the UK —  the only Western country where she held a valid visa — and applied for asylum. She is waiting for her application to be processed.

Bayat's paternal grandmother was Jewish and moved to Iran from Azeraijan’s capital Baku during the Second World War. 
Last week, Bayat celebrated the Jewish New Year for the first time in her life.
“It was amazing. It was a thing I never had a chance to do,” she said.