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Tunisian prime minister resigns over conflict of interest

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s prime minister resigned Wednesday amid suspicions of conflict of interest because of his stake in a waste processing company that won government contracts worth 15 million euro.

The revelations about Elyes Fakhfakh’s holdings in the company led to weeks of political tensions at a time when the North African country is in deep economic and social crisis worsened by the virus pandemic and ensuing lockdown.

A government statement said he resigned “taking into consideration the national interest and to avoid more difficulties for the country, and … to open a new path to get the country out of the crisis.”

While pleading his “integrity,” Fakhfakh acknowledged being a shareholder in the waste company while in office, but said he sold his shares to a third party. Multiple investigations are under way into the affair.

His departure was a victory for rival Islamist party Ennahdha, which had been in conflict with Fakhfakh over his refusal to expand the government to include an allied party.

At President Kais Saied’s request, Fakhfakh submitted his resignation in a private meeting Wednesday with the president and in the presence of Ennahdha leader Rachid Ghannouchi, Radio Mosaique reported.

Fakhfakh said he would continue doing his job until a successor is named. The president has 10 days to start consultations with political parties and parliamentary groups on picking a new prime minister.

Tunisia built a democracy after protesters overthrew a longtime autocrat in 2011 and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings.

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