Tunisia’s president calls for new cabinet

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Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki has asked the nation’s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to appoint a new cabinet as protests over economic hardship continues to sweep the streets of the north African state.
In a televised national address on Friday, President Moncef Marzouki said that the country’s coalition government had not “met the expectations of the people” and asked that a new one, smaller and specialised to deal with the unrest, be formed. The current government has about 80 members.
The Tunisian president’s ability to bring change is minimal. The prime minister is the determining force in the power structure. Marzouki, from the centre-left Congress for the Republic, has clashed with Ennahdha’s Jebali, in the past.
He said new elections should be held “as soon as possible,” before next summer. Calling the violence “unacceptable,” Marzouki said there should be a commission of enquiry. “The government must be changed to have a competent technocrat cabinet and not one based on political factions,” Marzouki said. “If the clashes continue and the government’s response is not adequate, there will be chaos and a dead-end,” he added.
“Tunisia today has an opportunity that it must not miss to be a model because the world is watching us and we mustn’t disappoint,” Marzouki said.
There was no immediate comment from the prime minister’s office.
Friday also saw the fourth day of protests, leaving more than 300 people injured including at least 17 blinded by birdshot, according to medical sources.
Angry protesters vented their frustration at security forces, calling for their government to fulfill the promises of the country’s revolution. Forces responded by firing tear gas canisters to disperse crowds. Several Tunisian radio stations said the army had moved into Siliana. An official close to Ennahdha, the centre-right Islamist party of the prime minister, said the army will replace police in Siliani. The official was not authorised to speak publicly and asked not to be named. No official announcement was made, but eye witnesses corroborated the information, saying that several army trucks and other vehicles moved in. The president expressed concern that the unrest in Siliana could spread to other regions in Tunisia’s long marginalised interior, where the lack of development and high unemployment helped trigger begin what became a nationwide uprising that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Al, the former autocrat, in January 2011.