Prime minister is a well-known word to almost all people of the world. In a cabinet form of government, prime minister is the most important person of the government. He/she is not the head of the state but head of the government. Other than some exceptions (viz. the USA), in a presidential form of government there is a prime minister either ornamentally or having limited authority. This is nothing new or unprecedented but a surprising incident has occurred very recently not only in the Arab world but also for the entire world. Nazla Bouden Ramadhan has been appointed as the first female prime minister not only of Tunisia (official name – the Republic of Tunisia, the northernmost country of Africa where almost all people are Muslims) but also of any Arab country. Within two months of taking office President Kais Saied has fired the former prime minister and his cabinet. At the same time, he has declared the name of Ramadhan as prime minister which has startled the Arab world. Through this unique initiative, the president has congratulated Tunisian women with a gift (as claimed by him). Although many people are not in a position to express their exaltation on this decision, beyond the president’s claim of empowerment of women they smell a stunt of politics in this event.
However, female prime minister in a Muslim country is nothing new. Benazir Bhutto was elected as the 11th as well as the 1st female prime minister of Pakistan (officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) in December, 1988 (from 1988 to 1990) but was dethroned by president after 20 months on alleged charges of violation of constitution, nepotism and corruption. She was again elected as the 13th prime minister in 1993 (from 1993 to 1996) but the president dissolved parliament and cabinet on the same charges in 1996. She was the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority country. On December 2007, while returning from an election campaign she was assassinated. Pakistani Taliban group admitted the liability but it is still a mystery that under whose direction the assassination occurred.
Female prime minister in countries under Arab League is certainly new. On 25th July this year, President Kais Saied dismissed the government of former Prime Minister Hitchem Mechichi, adjourned parliament and took the government and judiciary under his absolute control. People of Tunisia became divided over the decision of the president. Some people supported him and many others opposed. Political situation across the country became turbulent and mass protest began. The country's economy is facing disaster. Under such an adverse situation, President Kais Saied suddenly announced the name of Ramdhan as the new prime minister who was totally out of political arena. The president instructed her to form a cabinet immediately (a few hours or days) and declared on social media that both of them will work together for development of the country. “This is the first time in Tunisia's history that a woman is going to lead the cabinet. It is a matter of pride for Tunisia and for the women of the country” he wrote on Facebook.
Nobody is disagreeing with the president. Everyone is congratulating the first woman prime minister but, at the same time, some questions are revolving round. In the true sense of the term, Ramdhan had no acquaintance or activity in the field of politics. Ramdhan, 63, was a professor of Geology at the National School of Engineers. Later, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research appointed her as the Director General. She has worked in many projects with World Bank. Despite holding such important positions, she was not directly in charge of any ministry. Apart from that Ramdhan has no political experience. As a result, many people are raising question how she will manage administrative activities under such a critical situation. Moreover, many others also think that Ramdhan will not get the freedom of work that the former prime minister enjoyed. They apprehend that Ramdhan's cabinet will actually be a puppet-government under the hands of President Kais Saied. Many even say that it is simply a trick of chess of President Kais Saied to handle the political tensions of the country. As political expert, Slahedin Jaurchi puts it, “If you look at Ramadhan's bio-data you will find that she is a professor. She has no experience of working in such a sensitive position. I don't know how she will handle this type of complicated situation.” Members of parliament have claimed that this appointment is illegal and unconstitutional. As per their statement, how the prime minister is appointed without consent of the MPs?
However, some people are optimistic also. In their words, “This time a woman is holding the helm of family. She will start saving immediately. Bankrupt bank, crumbling economy, corrupt administration and disrupted medical service may change.”
The writer is a former