Africa

Tunisia's secularists and Islamists form new government

Tunisia's parliament on 4 February 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption MPs voted for the new government by an overwhelming margin

Tunisia's parliament has approved a coalition government made up of secularists and moderate Islamists.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said the government would focus on combating terrorism and improving the economy.

The government's formation follows last year's historic presidential and parliamentary elections in the birthplace of the Arab uprising.

Tunisia is seen as a model for compromise between rival political groups in North Africa.

The Islamist Ennahda party conceded defeat to the secular Nidaa Tounes party in the elections.

'Government motto'

It had won the first democratic election after the overthrow of long-serving ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The elections were seen as a landmark in the country's transition to democracy

Ennahda was given the employment ministry and other junior posts in the Nidaa Tounes-dominated government.

It had threatened to vote against the government if it was not given cabinet posts. Smaller parties were also included in the cabinet.

"The motto of this government will be work, then work... and nothing other than work," Mr Essid told MPs.

Mr Essid, who served in the Ben Ali government overthrown by the uprising, said the government would seek to "expedite the passage of an anti-terrorist law", AFP news agency reports.

He also said the government would tackle Tunisia's economic problems to "realise the promises of the revolution: dignity, employment, health and regional equality".

Unemployment is stubbornly high in Tunisia, and many people try to escape to Europe in the hope of finding a better life.

The North African state is also battling militant Islamists, who have carried out a spate of attacks since the overthrow of the former regime.

Some Tunisians are also said to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State.

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