Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tunisia under State of Emergency after Government Falls

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tunisia under State of Emergency after Government Falls

Article excerpt

Pushed to the brink, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali dissolved his government and called for fair elections in six months. But protesters are unrelenting.

A wave of street protests, unlike anything the Arab world has seen since Lebanon's Cedar Revolution in 2005, has caused Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to dismiss his government today.

In a bid to quell a growing rebellion, President Ben Ali promised fair elections but the country was also placed under a nationwide state of emergency.

Tunisia's state controlled TAP news agency said the country's parliament has been dissolved even as protesters continue to demand that Ben Ali, who has ruled this country with an iron fist since 1987, be ousted immediately. In what appears to be an effort to play for time, elections have been promised "within six months."

The situation in Tunis, the capital, is still developing. What started with rioting in the interior city of Sidi Bouzid in mid- December over rising prices, joblessness, and corruption within Ben Ali's family spiraled into nationwide protests and riots that have overwhelmed the security forces of one of the region's most repressive autocracies.

Yesterday Ben Ali promised to step down in 2014 in a bid to get protesters off the streets. Earlier in the week, he promised to create 300,000 new jobs this year (a staggering 821 jobs a day in a country of 10 million people), while not being specific on how.

But the crowds simply grew larger, and Al Jazeera and other regional satellite broadcasters carried footage of defiant chanting, soldiers saluting and shaking hands with protesters, and sporadic efforts at tear-gassing the crowds throughout the day.

The footage had people across the region glued to TVs in cafes and offices and political activists in states like Egypt, which share Tunisia's weak economy and repressive style of government - perhaps wondering if it's something they can replicate. …

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