Tunisia has appointed its first female Prime Minister, making her the first woman to lead a government in the Arab world.
Najla Bouden Ramadhane, a university engineer with World Bank experience, was appointed on Wednesday by President Kais Saied. The predecessor to the role was dismissed in July, alongside a suspension of parliament, in what Saied said were temporary measures to tackle the economic and Covid crises.
Opponents of Saied claim that the leader is pushing for more unilateral power, and that the appointment of Bouden is to placate his critics. The new forming government will have limited executive clout due to Saied seizing wide-ranging powers in July. In September, Saied brushed aside much of the Tunisian constitution. He has claimed to amend the constitution.
Bouden is a geologist and university lecturer as well as a political unknown. Some fear that his appointment of an individual with limited or non-existent political experience shows that he does not want a rival in his government.
But others welcome Bouden’s appointment, especially as the first woman to lead an Arab country. The Tunisian Association for Democratic Women welcomed her appointment, and claimed to have suggested Bouden for the position.
Bouden will be Tunisia’s tenth prime minister since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The overthrow was the beginning of the Arab Spring across the Middle East. Tunisia has been an example of a country that transitioned from dictatorship into democracy.
However, many Tunisians say they’ve seen little real improvement in their actual lives, and are disillusioned with the political process.
Bouden is a former director at PromESsE, a higher education reform project. She also held senior positions at Tunisia’s higher education ministry. She was French-educated, and achieved a PhD in geological engineering. She is a lecturer at Tunisia’s national engineering school.