Record of Tunisia new Bank Governor satisfies Ennahda, angers opposition

Yesterday’s Ben Ali adviser, today’s central bank governor

TUNIS – Designation of Chedly Ayari as Tunisia’s new Central Bank Governer has unleashed an unprecedented resentment of Tunisians and opposition alike.
Dozens of protesters rallied on Wednesday in front of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Bardo to denounce the decision as “a first step towards the return of the old guard”.
Demonstrators chanted slogans against the current Islamist-led government and the national assembly and accused the current leaders of gradually turning the North African country into “banana republic” in support of Deputy Mahmoud Baroudi’s intervention made few days earlier.
Baroudi, a deputy affiliated with the Republican Party – a coalition of leftist opposition groups – described Tunisia’s interim president as ”the president of the banana republic.”
When other NCA members demanded that Baroudi rescind his statement, he refused to yield. “It is a banana republic, and you are representing the banana republic,” Baroudi exclaimed.
Constituent Assembly on Tuesday appointed Chedly Ayari as the new central bank governor, after weeks of heated debate and another stormy session in the interim parliament.
"The designation of Chedly Ayari as governor of the central bank has been adopted," parliament speaker Mustafa Ben Jaafar said following the vote.
Opposition MPs were swift to condemn the circumstances of the vote, in which 190 MPs participated, despite only 156 being present at the start of the debate three and a half hours earlier.
It was also a tight race, with 97 lawmakers backing Ayari, 89 of them opposing his appointment and four abstaining.
The nomination of Ayari, 79, has been strongly criticised by the opposition and by some within the ruling coalition because of his age and his links with the former regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in an uprising last year.
The controversial sacking of Ayari's predecessor, Mustapha Kamel Nabli, triggered a heated debate in parliament between the government and the opposition, which accused the ruling coalition of seeking to control the bank.
Speaking after his appointment, the economist vowed to preserve the independence of the bank and the stability of the Tunisian dinar, as well as working to alleviate social problems.
"If our objectives are to reduce unemployment, to reduce poverty... the central bank must work in the same way" as the government, he said.
Minister of planning under Habib Bourguiba, the founding president of independent Tunisia, Ayari worked for various international financial institutions, including the African Development Bank, before Beni Ali recruited him as an adviser.
Rached Ghannouchi, who heads the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, acknowledged that Ayari's appointment was problematic, but argued that his abilities were needed.
"The state... must distinguish between those who were up to their necks in the dictatorship and corruption (of the former regime) and should be judged, and professionals who had limited relations with the regime," he wrote on his Facebook page.
In the gallery of the assembly on Tuesday, some spectators waved placards urging Ayari to "get out," the same slogan used by activist in last year's uprising against Ben Ali.