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Ben Ali security chief tasked with forming new Tunisia government

Habib Essid, a former Interior Minister who also worked with ousted president Ben Ali, selected as Tunisia's new Prime Minister
An image posted from Essebsi's official Twitter account shows him shaking hands with new Prime Minister Habib Essid (Twitter/@BejiCEOfficial)

A top security official under ousted strongman President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was named as the country's new prime minister designate on Monday, following Tunisia's first free presidential and parliamentary elections.

Habib Essid was formally tasked with forming a new government by newly-elected President Beji Caid Essebsi on Monday.

He will have a month, extendable once, to win approval from the parliament for his selected line-up.

Essid's party holds only 86 of the 217 seats after October's landmark election, so he will have to gain the support of the other parties in parliament if he is to form a government within a month.

Essid, born in the north-eastern town of Sousse, is an economist by training, having obtained a Masters in agricultural science from Minnesota University in the US.

Essid, 65, served as a top interior ministry official under Ben Ali's iron-fisted government.

After the 2011 revolution that toppled Ben Ali's 22-year rule, Essid was kept on, acting as Interior Minister under a transitional government formed by Essebsi.

After his stint as interior minister, he also served as a security adviser to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, the Secretary-General of Tunisia's Ennahda party who led the country from December 2011 to March 2013.

Nidaa Tounes threw their weight behind Essebsi's choice on Monday, saying they had reached "consensus" after consultations within the party and with other parties.

"After consultations, both within the party and with other parties, there is consensus around the name of Habib Essid as candidate for the post of head of government," Nidaa Tounes vice president Mohamed Ennaceur told reporters.

"He is an independent figure... who has skills and experience," Nidaa Tounes Mohamed Ennaceur told reporters, praising Essid for his "knowledge of security matters".

Ennahda, which holds the second-largest number of seats in Tunisia's parliament after losing out to Essebsi's secular Nidaa Tounes party in October's parliamentary elections, welcomed Essebsi's decision to appoint an independent candidate to the role.

Ahmed Qaalul, a leading member of the party, told Al-Jazeera that Nidaa Tounes had sent a message to all political parties in Tunisia to confirm that they would not appoint a party-affiliated candidate to the role of Prime Minister.

Ennahda has clashed with Essebsi in the past, warning of a possible return to one-party rule and dictatorship - however, the party has not ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with Nidaa Tounes.