Interim leadership to unveil new cabinet
Tunisian police used water cannons and fired shots in the air to disperse about a thousand protesters in the streets of Tunis on Monday as the interim leadership prepared to announce the formation of a new coalition government.
Tunisia prepared to announce a new coalition government Monday as fresh clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in the capital.
Police reportedly used water cannons and fired shots in the air on Monday as roughly one thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Tunis in protest against the ruling party of ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Meanwhile, the new government intended to fill the power vacuum left after Ben Ali’s departure is set to include members of the opposition, according to Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who was interviewed on FRANCE 24 Sunday.
Ghannouchi, a former ally of Ben Ali’s, is slated to keep his position, with speaker of parliament Foued Mebazaa continuing in the role of interim president.
The new government will remain in place for six months ahead of early elections, an opposition politician told FRANCE 24 on Monday. “A period of six months was agreed upon so that constitutional and legislative reforms could be carried out, to pave the way for a neutral election, with a neutral electoral committee and international observers,” said Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the main opposition Progressive Democratic Party.
Three opposition leaders have been tapped to join the government, including Chebbi as minister of regional development; Moustafa Ben Jaafar, president of the Forum for Work and Liberties, as health minister; and Ahmed Ibrahim of the Ettajdid (Movement for Renewal) as minister of higher education.
‘Ben Ali regime without Ben Ali’
The proposed coalition government has already been criticised by some Tunisian political players.
“We do not recognise the national unity government,” said Hamma Hammami, head of the banned Communist Workers Party, in a Monday interview with FRANCE 24. “It will be a continuation of the Ben Ali regime without Ben Ali, just with more democratic trimmings".
Opposition leader Chebbi has dismissed the criticism.
“This transition is being negotiated with political figures who have always resisted the Ben Ali regime, and with men who were part of the Ben Ali regime but were not involved in repression or corruption,” he said. “These are competent, upstanding members of the Tunisian political system.”
One of the new government’s first measures will be to “recognise” the legitimacy of two currently outlawed parties: the Communist party and the Congress for the Republic, which is run by Moncef Marzouki, who announced on Monday that he would return to Tunisia from France and run for president in the next election.
Gunfights at the presidential palace
Talks were held on Sunday between Tunisia’s legal political parties – which do not include the Communist and Islamist parties that Ben Ali banned while in power – as gun battles erupted between the army and members of Ben Ali’s presidential palace guard in Carthage.
Officials on Sunday said they had arrested General Ali Seriati, the chief of Ben Ali's presidential security, on charges of plotting an armed rebellion against the new leadership.
Tunisia has been in a state of political disarray since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power on Friday amid a wave of violent protests against his regime over the past few weeks.
Tension remained high in Tunis on Sunday, with “the feeling of a witch hunt” hovering over the city, according to FRANCE 24 correspondent Virginie Herz. Another FRANCE 24 correspondent, Cyril Vanier, said that in parts of Tunis, people were “building barricades with whatever they find – garbage, chairs, tables – and arming themselves with sticks and knives for protection”.
On Sunday night, Prime Minister Ghannouchi declared on public television that the transition authorities would have “no tolerance” toward people committing acts of violence.