Najla Bouden Romdhane has become the first prime minister in Tunisia and the Arab world as she is expected to fight against a looming crisis in public finances.
Tunisian President Kais Saied, who's facing stiff opposition from a large section of Tunisians, appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane as the north African country's first-ever prime minister on Thursday.
Amid domestic and international pressure after dismissing the former prime minister Hicham Mechichi and suspending parliament since July, President Saied asked Bouden, who also became the first female Prime Minister in the Arab World, to form a government as soon as possible.
Bouden is a little-known professor of geophysics who implemented World Bank projects at the education ministry of the country.
However, Bouden is likely to have less direct power compared to previous prime ministers under the 2014 constitutions as Saied declared a national emergency, granting himself executive powers, a move that triggered widespread protest on Sunday.
Despite appointing her to the country’s second-highest position in executive branch with restricted power, Saied said that "for the first time in Tunisia’s history, a woman will head a government," in a video posted on the Presidency’s Facebook page.
In Arab countries, which are plagued by deep-rooted patriarchy, it is very rare for women to hold senior political roles.
Bouden was born in the country’s central province of Kairouan in 1958. She is a geophysics engineer and a professor at the National Engineering School at Tunis El Manar University.
She has a Ph.D. from Ecole des Mines de Paris in earthquake engineering and specialised in seismic hazards in Tunis, the capital of the country.
Bouden was appointed as director general in 2011 in charge of quality at the Ministry of Higher Education. She continued in the position of head of the Purpose Action Unit in the same ministry.
She had served Higher Education and Scientific Research for implementing the programmes, higher education reform projects, of the World Bank between 2016 and 29 September 2021, when she was appointed as new prime minister of the country by the president.
Till now, she does not have any political affiliation, according to Anadolu Agency.
Bouden is set to inherit a soaring political and economic crisis that has gripped the North African country over the past few years and which has worsened since Saied’s “exceptional measures.”
On September 26, Saied issued a decree to expand his legislative and executive powers. He also abolished the body established in 2014 to monitor the constitutionality of laws.
Many in Tunisia hope that Bouden will revive the country’s image as the only Arab country that succeeded in carrying out a democratic transition among other Arab countries that also witnessed popular revolutions that toppled the ruling regimes, including Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.