Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi on Monday said "all" Tunisian dissidents would be freed, once-outlawed political parties would be legalised and the media allowed "total freedom of information" as the country eyes historic elections in six months.
AFP - Tunisia unveiled a new government Monday to prepare elections within six months, promising unprecedented freedoms in the once tightly-controlled country although the old regime held on to key posts.
"We have decided to free all the people imprisoned for their ideas, their beliefs or for having expressed dissenting opinions," Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi told reporters in the capital Tunis, adding: "We announce total freedom of information."
Key figures in Tunisian politics
The 78-year-old speaker of parliament was sworn in as Tunisia’s interim president a day after Tunisian strongman Ben Ali fled for Saudi Arabia. A veteran politician, Mebazaa is the chairman of the ruling RDC (Democratic Constitutional Rally) party. (Photo: AFP)
Nicknamed "Tunisia's computer,” Ghannouchi is considered the architect of Ben Ali’s economic policies. A former finance minister, he became PM in 1999. A technocrat and close Ben Ali associate, Ghannouchi served as acting president for a day following Ben Ali's ouster.
A seasoned diplomat, Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, 62, is considered a “new man” in politics. His political career began in 2005, when he was appointed defence minister. Educated abroad, Morjane worked previously for UNHCR.(Photo: AFP)
A prominent opposition figure, Najib Chebbi founded, in 1983, the Progressive Socialist Rally, which was renamed the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) in 2001. He was appointed minister of regional development in the transitional unity government. (Photo: AFP)
In 2006, Maya Jribi became the PDP’s secretary-general, the first woman to hold such a post in Tunisia. Jibri, 50, is a biologist by training. Under Ben Ali, the PDP was legally recognized but it had no representatives in parliament. (Photo: AFP)
Mustapha Ben Jaafar was vice president of the Tunisian League of Human Rights before helping found the opposition party FTDL(Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties) in 1994. He was appointed transitional health minister in the new unity government. (Photo: AFP)
A former senior member of the Tunisian Communist Party, Ahmed Brahim, 64, is one of the founders of the Ettajdid (Renewal) party. He ran for president in the 2009 election. Ibrahim was appointed minister for higher education in the national unity government.(Photo:AFP)
A prominent opposition figure, Hamma Hammami, 59, was jailed several times for his campaign against Ben Ali’s power. He spent part of his life in hiding. The Communist Party, banned in Tunisia, was not invited to negotiations to form a unity government.
Leader of the Islamist Ennahdha (Renaissance) party, Rashid Ghannouchi has lived in exile in London since 1989. Following Ben Ali’s ouster, Ghannouchi, 69, says he is a moderate and advocates the Islamist and democratic principles of Turkey’s ruling AKP party.
The new authority also put a cost to weeks of turmoil that forced president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee Friday after 23 years in power, saying 78 people had been killed and the economy had lost 1.6 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars).
Ghannouchi announced that he would remain as head of the transitional government, which will prepare for historic presidential and parliamentary elections within a maximum of six months.
His Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) also retained the key foreign, interior, defence and finance ministries, even after hundreds demanded in protests in Tunis and other cities Monday that the party be abolished.
The protests were broken up by riot police as a ban on public assemblies remains in place, as well as a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew amid continued fears over the security situation following gunfights in Tunis on Sunday.
Article 57 of Tunisia's constitution states that in case the Presidency of the Republic becomes vacant, the President of the National Parliament is invested temporarily with the functions of the Republic for a maximum period of 60 days.
During this period he has to organise new presidential election.
An interim president does not hold the right to dissolve parliament, stand for elections or change the constitution.
But it excluded banned political parties including the Communists and the Islamist Ennahdha, although Ghannouchi said that all political parties would now be legalised and that strictly-controlled media would be freed.
Restrictions would also be lifted on non-governmental organisations including Tunisia's main human rights group, the Human Rights League, and all political prisoners held by the previous regime would be freed, he said.
"We have decided to allow all associations to have normal activities without any interference on the part of the government," Ghannouchi said.
Moncef Marzouki, a dissident living in Paris who has announced that he would stand for the presidency in the future polls, immediately branded the new government a "masquerade" still dominated by Ben Ali's supporters.
"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist said.
"A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the RCD," he said on French channel I-Tele.
The Communist party, which is still banned in Tunisia, also slammed the new government saying it was the old regime in a new guise.
With Tunisia in chaos since Ben Ali's downfall -- which followed weeks of popular revolt in which security forces opened fire on protesters -- United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called for the "prompt restoration" of the rule of law.
Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa said 78 people were killed and 94 injured, several times more than the last official figure of 21 dead issued on January 11, a few days before the president fled.
He also announced losses to the state equivalent to around four percent of Tunisia's 2010 gross domestic product, according to an AFP calculation based on International Monetary Fund economic data.
Friaa said two-thirds of the losses were due to the disruption of economic activity during protests and one-third was due to lost export revenues.
Economic activity has virtually ground to a halt in Tunisia, with most shops and banks still closed following reports of looting and gunfights.
Thousands of tourists -- a key source of revenue -- have fled.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon and shot live rounds in the air in the capital again earlier Monday to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding the abolishing of Ben Ali's party following heavy gunfire on Sunday.
"The revolution continues! RCD out!" they shouted.
"Bread and water and no RCD!" hundreds more shouted in Sidi Bouzid, where a December 17 self-immolation suicide in an anti-government protest unleashed the movement that forced strongman Ben Ali to flee.
"Things are gradually getting back to normal and security conditions are improving," Friaa told reporters.
"But we have to stay vigilant because there are dangerous elements who want to create chaos," he added.
Ben Ali's ouster in what has been dubbed the Jasmine Revolution sent shockwaves around the Arab world as he became the first Arab leader in recent history to be forced out by street protests.
Fierce gun battles broke out Sunday in Tunis and near the presidential palace in nearby Carthage. There were also clashes near the interior ministry.
Date created : 2011-01-18