Tunisia: Tension eased between Mechichi and Saied amid Council of Ministers crisis 

The Tunisian government confirmed a positive step last Thursday after a phone call between Prime Minister Hisham Mechichi and President of the Republic Kais Saied eased tension between the two heads of state following the recent crisis over the government reshuffle.

During the phone conversation, Mechichi thanked the president after the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani responded positively to Saied's request to postpone the execution of Tunisian citizen Fakhri Al-Andalusi, until considering an alternative punishment.

The news of the death sentence against Al-Andalusi sparked widespread controversy in Tunisia as the defendant was charged with the assassination of a Qatari soldier, while his family insists on his innocence.

Salim El-Tessawi, advisor to the prime minister in charge of social affairs, disclosed in statements to Tunisian radio station Jawhara FM: "The phone call was a very positive step that started from a partial event that could cast a shadow over the whole population," adding that: "Tunisians today need something to unite and not divide them."

El-Tessawi also considered that the call: "Contributed to breaking the psychological barrier that was recently built up between the two sides," stressing that: "The current situation requires boldness and courage to face the country's problems."

On 15 February, Mechichi announced the dismissal of five ministers to be replaced by other officials assuming the vacant posts until the new government is fully formed.

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Tension escalated between Saied and Mechichi after the latter announced on 16 January a government reshuffle, including 11 ministerial portfolios out of 25, and ten days after parliament approved it.

However, Saied refused to invite the new ministers to swear the oath of office, considering that the reshuffle was marred by "violations".

Relations between Saied and the prime minister underwent a radical transformation from a cordial and cooperative rapport to a state of tension and hostility, even though the president appointed Mechichi, who was not proposed by any political party after former Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned.

Osama Oweidat, a member of the political bureau of the People's Movement, revealed to Arabic Post that: "The reason behind the disagreement between the heads of state is that Mechichi turned against the president of the republic, who chose him to lead the government."

Oweidat added: "Mechichi has turned against all the president's directives, first by changing the form of government, from a government of independent ministers into a political one, and secondly when he did not adopt a social programme aimed at accelerating the solution of the worsening social crisis in Tunisia."

He continued: "It was supposed that Mechichi's government would be the president's second government after the resignation of his first government (led by Fakhfakh), but Mechichi prioritised his personal interests and to chose to remain in power through coordinating with a parliamentary political belt that imposed on him a cabinet reshuffle bringing in corrupt personalities and representatives of certain parties. Mechichi chose safety for himself, not safety for Tunisia."