Tunisian President Kais Saied has appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane, a top education official, as the country’s prime minister, nearly two months after he dismissed the former premier and suspended the parliament.
Saied’s office announced the appointment of Romdhane, a little-known university professor who worked at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, in a statement on Wednesday.
The president named Romdhane under the provisions he announced last week and has asked her to quickly form a new government, said the statement.
Romdhane is the first woman to be named to the position in Tunisia’s history.
The decision came about two months after the president suspended the parliament and sacked then Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, amid mass protests in several cities against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president’s unexpected intervention in July granted him an executive power, but bitterly irked his opponents, who denounced the move as a coup.
Last week, Saied suspended much of the constitution, saying he could rule by decree during an “exceptional” period with no set ending. The international community has called on the president to return Tunisia to “a constitutional order.”
The country’s biggest political party, Ennahda, has also denounced the president’s move as a “coup.” Saied, however, said he took the measure to save Tunisia from collapse. He also promised that he would assume executive authority “with the help” of a government whose new chief he would personally appoint.
Ennahda has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that ousted then Western-backed ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The party, however, started to lose support since the economy stagnated and public services declined, amid the pandemic and a surge in infection rates this summer.