Tunisian Police Clash With Protesters in Capital as Unrest Continues

Tunisian police clashed with anti-government protesters in the capital Tunis and several other towns on Tuesday, residents said, as fresh demonstrations against austerity measures broke out a day after one person was killed in unrest.

Protests erupted in at least 12 towns across Tunisia on Monday, among them the tourist towns of Sousse and Hammamet, against price and tax rises imposed by the government to reduce its ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders.

In Tunis on Tuesday police fired tear gas in two districts and also fired gas at a crowd storming a supermarket of France's Carrefour, a witness said. No casualties were reported.

Fresh clashes also broke out in Tebourba, a town 40 km (25 miles) west of Tunis where one protester was killed on Monday, witnesses said, and soldiers could be seen there and in Jelma, a central town where clashes were also reported.

The main opposition party had hours earlier called for protests to continue until the government scrapped what it called an unjust 2018 budget including price and tax hikes.

While Tunisia is widely seen as the only democratic success story among the nations where Arab Spring revolts took place in 2011, it has had nine governments since then and none of them have been able to tackle growing economic problems.

Europe is concerned about stability in Tunisia, partly because unemployment there has forced many young Tunisians to go abroad: The number of boats smuggling migrants to Italy has been rising and Tunisia has also produced the largest number of jihadists heading for battlefields in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Public anger has been building since Jan. 1, when the government raised the prices of petrol and other items and hiked taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation as part of those economic reforms.

A year ago, the government agreed to a four-year loan programme with the International Monetary Fund worth about $2.8 billion in return for economic reforms.

Today we have a meeting with the opposition parties to coordinate our movements, but we will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law is dropped, opposition Popular Front leader Hamma Hammami told reporters.

Adding to pressure on the government, Nourredine Taboubi, head of the labor union UGTT, demanded the minimum wage and aid for the poor be raised within a week, state news agency TAP said.

Source: Voice of America