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Tunisian Prime Minister Essid unseated in loss of confidence vote

Essid's government was criticised for failing to tackle country's economic crisis, high unemployment and series of terrorist attacks
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid (AFP/file photo)

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid on Saturday lost a confidence vote in parliament, after just a year and a half in office.

Out of 217 MPs overall, 191 were present for the vote. A total of 118 MPs voted to unseat Essid, three voted for him to stay at the helm of the North African nation and 27 abstained.

Essid's government has been widely criticised for failing to tackle the country's economic crisis, high unemployment and a series of terrorist attacks.

Economic growth slowed to 0.8 percent last year from 2.3 percent in 2014, and unemployment nationwide stood at 15 percent at the end of the year.

Ennahda party chief Rached Ghannouchi said: "There is an agreement between the parties and organisations on the need for change," Reuters news agency reported earlier. 

Essid had been under growing pressure since President Beji Caid Essebsi appeared on local television in June to criticise the administration and propose creating a new government of national unity.

Ahead of the vote, MPs earlier on Saturday praised Essid for his "integrity" but also criticised his record.

Abdelaziz Kotti, of Nidaa Tounes, spoke of "a big economic crisis... and a government incapable of finding solutions and giving Tunisians hope."

Former prime minister Ali Lareyedh, of the Ennahda party, said the government had been "too weak".

"It is time for a change," he said.

Essid had already been forced into a broad reshuffle in January, when the country witnessed some of its worst social unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

His supporters have condemned "pressure" from supporters of Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president's son who is among the leaders of the Nidaa Tounes party.

Not the end

Tunisian media, however, doubted that Essid's departure would solve the country's problems.

"Will the departure of Habib Essid and his team resolve the enormous difficulties facing the country? It would be naive to think that the rescue of the country depends on a government of national unity," wrote Le Quotidien.

"The biggest fear today is a political void," said La Presse.

Political analyst Youssef Cherif told Al Jazeera that Saturday's events were "very important not only for Tunisia, but for the region.

"This is the first time in Tunisia that such an event happened; first time a government goes to parliament and a vote of no confidence is recorded," he said from the capital, Tunis, after the vote.

Cherif said the result may be bad news for the country's economic and political situation.

"This will open the doors again for days, weeks, even months of negotiations between different political parties and different political players - [putting] all the big projects that were supposed to take place on standby until a new government is formed and voted in," he told Al Jazeera.

Tunisia, whose 2011 uprising inspired similar revolts across other Arab countries, has been touted as a regional example of a successful transition to democracy after a revolution.

But successive governments have struggled to tackle a militant insurgency and to revive the flagging economy.

Security forces frequently engage in deadly clashes with militant groups in the mountainous west, and last year the Islamic State group (IS) claimed two high-profile attacks that killed 59 foreign tourists. 

The country has been in a state of emergency since November, when a suicide bombing, also claimed by IS, killed 12 presidential guards in Tunis.