Tunis urges interim president to name new government

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TUNIS, Aug 3 - Tunisia's powerful labour union on Tuesday urged the president to promptly announce a new government some nine days after he seized executive control in a move his opponents called a coup.

President Kais Saied has defended his actions as constitutional and said he would govern alongside a new prime minister during an emergency period, but nine days after his intervention, he has yet to name one.

We can't wait 30 days for the announcement of a government, said Sami Tahri, a spokesman for the UGTT union, one of Tunisia's most powerful political forces.

We must speed up the formation of the government to be able to face economic and health challenges, he said.

Saied's sudden intervention on 25 July appeared to have widespread public support but prompted fears for the future of the democratic system that Tunisia adopted after its 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.

On Tuesday, he removed Tunisia's ambassador to Washington, the latest in a string of general and mid-ranking office officials including several ministers. He did not immediately name a replacement.

He is also still to announce a roadmap to end an emergency period that he initially announced at one month, but later added up to two months.

A source close to the presidential palace in Carthage said Saied may announce new prime minister on Tuesday. Sources tell Reuters that Central Bank Governor Nizar Yaich and two former Finance Ministers, Marouane Abassi and Hakim Hammouda, are contenders.

Saied's biggest leading adversary, the moderate Ennahda Party, has meanwhile been riven by internal splits over its response to the crisis and its longer-term strategy and leadership.

Tunisians had become increasingly frustrated by economic stagnation, corruption and bickering over the past decade among a political class that often seemed more focused on its own national interests than on narrow problems.

The coronavirus pandemic ripped through Africa over the past two months as state vaccination efforts crawled, leading at one point to the worst infection and death rates in Tunisia. Pandemic counter measures last year hammering the economy.

On Monday, Saied replaced the finance, agriculture and telecoms ministers after saying earlier this week that wrong economic choices had cost the country. On Sunday he said there were contacts with the more supportive countries for financial assistance.