Tunisia

State of emergency declared as Tunisian leader sacks government

Demonstrators demanding more freedom of speech, job opportunities and better standards of living in Tunisia
Demonstrators demanding more freedom of speech, job opportunities and better standards of living in Tunisia Reuters

The Tunisian President on Friday sacked his government and called early elections after 13 demonstrators were shot dead in the capital. Public meetings have been banned, with security forces authorised to fire on anyone disobeying orders.

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Hundreds of protesters flooded into Tunis, calling for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to stand down.

"No to Ben Ali, the uprising continues," the demonstrators cried as they marched through the capital.

The march which swelled rapidly from dozens to several hundreds was stopped by a police barrage before it reached the interior ministry.

On Friday morning, police and army forces, which had been massively deployed in the capital, appeared to have been scaled back.

Thursday evening, Ben Ali appeared on television in a bid to calm tensions, after weeks of unrest in which human rights groups say at least 66 people died.

The demonstration comes a day after Ben Ali promised not to seek another term in 2014, and vowed to liberalise the political system.

He also ordered police to stop firing at demonstrators.

Tunisia’s opposition which has long been stifled by Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime welcomed his comments on Thursday.

“The good thing is that the president has decided not to run for another term,” says Mahammed Nejib Chebbi, the historical leader of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP)

On Friday, the Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane said a national unity government would be feasible and “totally normal” for Tunisia on the French radio station Europe 1. He nodded towards the leader of the PDP which is legal but not represented in parliament.

"Given the conduct of people like Mr. Nejib Chebbi, I think it is feasible, even totally normal" to have a power-sharing deal, Morjane said. He gave no further details of who he thought might take part.

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