Political turmoil, economic crisis provoke violent protest in Tunisia
By Javier Martín
Tunis, Jan 18 (efe-epa).- A power struggle being waged between the head of state, the government and the president of the Parliament has opened the door for violence on the streets of Tunisia, where new restrictions — in addition to those in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic — have been introduced as the country marks the 10th anniversary of the fall of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Nearly 650 people across the country have been arrested in riots and clashes with police since Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi imposed a total lockdown and extended the curfew hours on 14 January to tackle the coronavirus.
The open hostility at the gatherings, organized by disaffected and marginalized youth, has forced security measures to be reinforced and the deployment of the military in the capital’s residential neighborhoods.
On Sunday, for the third night in a row, protesters looted shops, cut off the roads and clashed with security forces, who tear gassed the demonstrators.
Clashes were reported in the capital Tunis, Sfax, Sousse, Mahdia, Tozeur, Gafsa and Siliana, which has been severely hit by the protests.
These regions have been particularly affected by youth unemployment, which stands at 40 percent, corruption, an economic crisis exacerbated by coronavirus restrictions and inflation, which has made staple products like chicken and eggs a luxury for most Tunisians.
Although videos shared on social media by protesters, residents and activists do not feature clear or coordinated demands, the rallies are a manifestation of the general population’s hostility towards the political class over the lack of economic reforms.
The local press has drawn comparisons with the 2011 uprising amid calls for a new “hunger revolution”.
“The atmosphere on the streets of Tunis is getting worse every day and there is little hope for a better tomorrow,” local journalist Mohamed Salem Kechiche said.