Hundreds rally against Tunisia’s new government


TUNIS – Hundreds of Tunisians rallied against their new government on Wednesday, as the leadership tried to defuse public anger over the continued power of the former ruling party and four ministers pulled out.
“Ben Ali has gone to Saudi Arabia! The government should go there too,” more than 1,000 protesters chanted in central Tunis, referring to former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who fled on Friday after 23 years of iron-fisted rule. “We want a new parliament, a new constitution, a new republic! People rise up against the Ben Ali loyalists!” they chanted at the peaceful demonstration. Some of them waved placards reading: “Down with the RCD!”
An opposition leader who has joined the government as regional development minister told AFP the first cabinet meeting would be held on Thursday but a government spokesman said the exact date was still up in the air. An opposition source said the priorities at the cabinet meeting would be to draw up a national amnesty law for victims of the former regime, as well as concrete moves to break up the RCD’s stranglehold on organs of state.
The authorities meanwhile eased the timing of a curfew that has been in place for days, saying the security situation had improved, but a state of emergency that bans any public assemblies remained in place. Traffic was visibly heavier in Tunis and some shops and offices re-opened.
Interim president Foued Mebazaa and Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi on Tuesday quit the RCD, which has dominated Tunisian politics for decades.
But Ghannouchi and seven other ministers from the previous government under Ben Ali held on to their posts including the interior and defence ministries.
“Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” Tunisia’s Le Quotidien daily commented in an editorial that emphasised the new national unity government was temporary and would prepare for democratic elections. “The resentment is legitimate but it should not transform itself into a blind hatred that blocks the victorious march of the Tunisian people towards liberty,” said the independent daily.