Kais Saied, the Tunisian President, appointed Kamal Feki, the ex-governor of Tunis, as the new Interior Minister on Friday. This came only a few hours after Taoufik Charfeddine resigned from the position, amidst a crackdown on influential opposition figures that has resulted in worldwide criticism.
On Friday, Taoufik Charfeddine, the Tunisian Interior Minister and a close confidant of President Kais Saied, declared his resignation to dedicate more time to his three children following the passing of his wife last year.
After serving in his position since October 2021, 54-year-old Charfeddine informed journalists that he wanted to express gratitude to the President for “his comprehension and for enabling me to step down from my responsibilities.”
He stated, “The moment has arrived for me to commit myself to the obligation that she left me with.” Kamal Feki, who has been the Governor of Tunis since 2021 and is also a member of Saied’s closest advisors, will replace Charfeddine as Interior Minister.
A former lawyer, Charfeddine was a key figure in the election campaign that propelled the previously little-known Saied to the presidency in 2019.
After Saied froze parliament and sacked the then-government in a dramatic July 2021 move against the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings, Charfeddine became a close adviser.
As the president pushed through sweeping changes to the country’s political system, concentrating near-total power in his office, Charfeddine was one of the most outspoken defenders of Saied’s power grab.
Saied’s office regularly released video footage of the two men’s meetings in the presidential palace.
During the wave of arrests that accompanied Saied’s power grab, Charfeddine held news conferences to defend the incarceration of opposition politicians.
When the vice president of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the largest in parliament before its dissolution by Saied, went on hunger strike to protest his detention, Charfeddine alleged that terrorism fears had forced the security forces to respond.
“There were fears of acts of terrorism targeting the country’s security and we had to act,” the minister said last year of the arrest of Noureddine Bhiri, a former justice minister.
Last month, Charfeddine was by Saied’s side as Tunisia faced an international outcry over a tirade by the president against illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
“There is no question of allowing anyone in an illegal situation to stay in Tunisia,” the president said in one of his videotaped meetings with the minister.
“I will not allow the institutions of the state to be undermined or the demographic composition of Tunisia to be changed.”
The president’s speech two nights previously had triggered a wave of violence against African migrants and prompted several West African countries to organize repatriation flights for fearful nationals.
On March 8, more than 30 Tunisian non-governmental organizations demanded an apology from Charfeddine after he branded as “traitors” the president’s many critics in the private sector, the media and trade unions.
They accused him of using the “language of threat and intimidation” to “sow division” among Tunisians as part of a “dangerous populist discourse that foreshadows a police state” like the one overthrown in the country’s 2011 uprising.