Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly on Wednesday approved a new Islamist-led government, as the death of an unemployed man who set himself alight a day earlier further highlighted the country’s deep economic crisis.
Tunisia's new Islamist-led government won a confidence vote on Wednesday, as the death of an unemployed man who had set himself on fire in despair underscored the scale of its task.
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh has said the government, which was backed by 139 of the National Constituent Assembly's 217 members, would serve only until an election later in the year.
Tunisia, economically struggling and deeply polarised between Islamists and their opponents, is in the throes of a political transition that began with the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising two years ago.
The revolt was sparked by the death of Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vendor who torched himself on Dec. 17, 2010 after a policewoman seized his fruit cart in the town of Sidi Bouzid.
Adel Kedhri, 27, was the latest of several Tunisians to emulate Bouazizi's fiery protest. A medical source said he had died in hospital after setting himself alight in the centre of Tunis, the capital, on Tuesday.
"We received the message," Larayedh said of Khedhri's death on Wednesday, without commenting further.
Presenting his government's programme the previous day, he said its priorities would be tackling unemployment, now at 17 percent, and rising prices, along with providing security.
The economic and social problems that fuelled Tunisia's uprising have yet to be solved and often spark unrest. Feuding politicians have missed deadlines to produce a new constitution and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.
In Pictures: Unrest at opposition leader's funeral
Tunisian security forces arrested a young man near the cemetery where assassinated opposition leader Chokri Belaid was buried on Friday. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
At least 40,000 people turned out for Belaid’s funeral. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Thousands of mourners cried out “Allah Akbar” (“God is great”) during the ceremony and sang Tunisia’s national anthem. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Breaking with Muslim tradition, hundreds of women entered the cemetery to pay homage to Belaid, who was a staunch defender of women’s rights. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
The funeral scene was chaotic, with a helicopter constantly circling overhead. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Black smoke caused by tear gas billowed from a building near the cemetery’s entrance. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Crowds of people fled as police fired tear gas after thugs set fire to cars and threw stones at security forces. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
A Tunisian man held up a tear gas canister. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Interior ministry spokesperson Khaled Tarrouche said that at least 132 people had been arrested after clashes broke out between protesters and security forces near the cemetery and in downtown Tunis. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
Security forces finally regained control of the situation in the afternoon, but dozens of cars were destroyed near the cemetery. © Photo: Mehdi Chebil / France 24
The malaise worsened when secular politician Chokri Belaid was assassinated in broad daylight on Feb. 6 in what the authorities say was an attack by Salafi Islamist militants.
The previous government collapsed after the killing, which touched off days of mass street protests.
The new one, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party along with two junior secular coalition partners, resembles its predecessor, although in a concession to its critics Ennahda has ceded control of some key ministries to independents.
The assembly, split over Islam's role in society and over the powers of president and parliament, will vote later today or Thursday on a new timetable for the constitution and elections.
Those polls would end a transitional period in which Tunisia has had four interim governments since Ben Ali's overthrow.
Date created : 2013-03-13