Confidence for Tunisia new government, criticism against new FM

Ben Abdessalem: I was chosen for my merits

TUNIS - Tunisia's constituent assembly on Friday approved the North African country's new government, two months after the first free elections since its January revolution.
The line-up unveiled Thursday by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of the Islamist Ennahda party was approved in a confidence vote with 154 in favour, 38 opposed and 11 abstaining, after a full day's debate.
The 41-member cabinet was the subject of weeks of negotiations between Ennahda and its two left-leaning allies.
Among the leading cabinet appointees, Ali Larayedh, a former political prisoner and senior Ennahda official, was tapped as interior minister and Rafik Ben Abdessalem Bouchleka, son-in-law of Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, was named foreign minister.
Nourredine Bhiri, party spokesman, was appointed justice minister while independent AbdelkaAim Zbidi was kept on at the defence ministry, the only one to stay in his old job.
The appointment of the new Foreign minister Ben Abdessalem unleashed fury and criticism among Tunisians.
A document proving that Ben Abdessalem represented Qatar in NATO conference on Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was revealed by Mondher Bel Hadj Ali, a university professor, on Nessma TV on Friday.
The same document circulated on Facebook, triggering a wave of criticism and anger among thousands of Tunisians.
Tunisian opposition, activists and members of the civil society as well as many youth groups say that Ben Abdessalem has been chosen because of his ties of kinship with Ghannouchi, not because of his competence and qualifications.
They argue that such an appointment is reminiscent of the old regime practices that gave the son-in-law of deposed President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, Sakher Materi, many privileges and great influence.
The new foreign minister, Ben Abdessalem is an ex-analyst with Qatar-based television network al Jazeera.
Ben Abdessalem, 43, worked as Senior Researcher and Head of the Research and Studies Office at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.