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Tunisian president to call early poll if government loses vote of confidence

FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's elected president Kais Saied gestures during his swearing-in ceremony at the Assembly of People's Representatives in Tunis, Tunisia October 23, 2019REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunis (Reuters) - Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Monday he would dissolve parliament and call for an early election if the new government fails to win a parliamentary confidence vote amid what he called the worst political crisis since independence in 1956.

Designated prime minister Elyes Fakhfakh proposed the line-up of a new government on Saturday and then said negotiations would continue after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the biggest in parliament, rejected it.

But with the largest parties opposed to his coalition or unenthusiastic about its makeup, Fakhfakh may struggle to gain the strong parliamentary majority needed for any significant political programme to tackle a severe economic crisis.

“I say it very clearly: if the government fails to win the confidence of parliament, the word will return to the people,” Saied said.

Unemployment has been high and growth low since the 2011 revolution, while the government has sunk further into debt with a series of big budget deficits that foreign lenders demand it bring under control.

Ennahda’s nominee for prime minister, Habib Jemli, proposed a coalition government that was rejected by parliament in a confidence vote last month.

“It is the worst political crisis in the country since independence,” Saied said in a video broadcast.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Nick Macfie