On Tuesday, for a fifth night in a row, Tunisia was drowned in chaos and disorder as large number of protestors marched to heavily barricaded parliament, and police had to resort to water cannon to curb this largest rally yet, since demonstrations began this month over inequality and police abuses.
Clashes broke out in the Ettadhamen and Sijoumi districts of the capital Tunis, where hundreds of protesters burned tires and blocked roads and marched towards the parliament. They were then in their course of protest joined by more protestors near the parliament.
Protestors were approaching the parliament building where legislators were busy having deliberations on a controversial government reshuffle, but their march was blocked by the police with barricades.
In parliament, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi wished-for a new cabinet, a move President Kais Saied on Monday vetoed as unconstitutional. Mechichi had told the assembly that his only aim is to create a “more effective and efficient” reform team by naming 11 new ministers to the interior, justice, health and other crucial portfolios.
The session comes just a day after protesters had clashed with police in the town of Sbeitla, in Tunisia’s marginalised centre. This had happened after a young man hit by a tear gas container during clashes last week died in hospital. Due to this rally, heavy police were deployed around the parliament, which was criticised by a lot of politicians. One said, “A vote of confidence under police siege” and now “all that’s missing is to vote under the threat of the baton.”
Tunisia is witnessing these protests on the 10th anniversary of its’s 2011 revolution that turned a new leaf for the Arab Spring and led to the introduction of Democracy in the Northern African Countries. Tunisian’s have been through lot of ups and downs due to political paralysis and economic decline, which is even a reason for these uprisings. Covid-19 has worsened the situation with high level of unemployment and declining state services. But Mechichi has always said, “Greater efficiency in the work of the government” is his sole aim.
Mechichi, on Tuesday in a television speech said, that he very well understands public’s anger and frustration, but the violence is not at all acceptable. He said, “Your voice is heard and your anger is legitimate…. Do not allow saboteurs among you”, while addressing the protestors.
One of the protestors, Salem Ben Saleh, who is unemployed said, “The government that only uses police to protect itself from the people – it has no more legitimacy”.
WHOOP FOR RESTRAINT
The political deadlock in Tunisia since the elections of 2019 has paralysed its efforts to address worsening economic problems with both foreign lenders and the main labour union demanding reforms. Previous year, Tunisia’s economy went down by more than 8%, with the fiscal deficit rising above 12% of GDP, droving the public debt to more than 90% of gross domestic product, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
There has been a harmony between the night clashes between the people and police and the daytime demonstrations, where the protestors have shouted slogans like, “the people want the fall of the regime”. On Tuesday, some of the opposition lawmakers left the parliament and joined the protest, and started intonation against the security forces.
One of the protestors, Imed, said, “Mechichi has transformed this into a police state … no work, no development, no investment … just police against the people.” Amnesty International has already called for check on the police, on the basis of leaked video footages in which officers were beating and spanking the protestors during clash.
Last week, Amnesty International also said in a statement that, “Tunisian security forces must immediately refrain from using unnecessary and excessive force to disperse protesters who have taken to the streets in the capital and several governorates, against marginalization, police violence, poverty and lack of job opportunities.”