Old guard keep Tunisian top jobs


Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announces a national unity government in Tunis (AP)

Tunisia faces more unrest as it promised to free political prisoners and open its government to opposition forces long shut out of power – but with the old guard still in key posts.

Demonstrators carrying signs reading “GET OUT!” demanded that the former ruling party be banished altogether – a sign of more troubles for the new unity government as security forces struggle to contain violent reprisals, shootings and looting three days after the president fled under pressure from the streets.

Even before the new government was announced on Monday, security forces fired tear gas to repel demonstrators who see the change of power as Tunisia’s first real chance at democracy.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after a month of protests over unemployment and corruption led to his downfall after 23 years in power.

The government said 78 civilians had died in the month of unrest – an announcement that underlined the depth of the violence in the usually placid Mediterranean tourist destination.

Under autocratic Ben Ali, Tunisia was effectively under one-party rule. The new government includes three ministers from the opposition – a first in Tunisia – but members of Ben Ali’s RCD party held on to most of the jobs, including the most important posts.

Hundreds of stranded tourists were still being evacuated and foreign airlines gradually resumed flights that were halted when Tunisian airspace closed amid the upheaval.

Besides the civilians killed in the month-long protests, interior minister Ahmed Friaa said 94 were injured – a jump from the previous official death toll of 23. The new figure does not include members of security forces, some of whom also died, Mr Friaa said.

Among victims of the violence was French photojournalist Loucas Von Zabiensky-Mebrouk, 32, who died three days after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

The troubles have hit the tourist-based Tunisian economy, which Mr Friaa said has lost £1.3 billion because of the unrest. Resort towns like Hammamet were boarded up and under police control, said Norredine Gohdbani, who worked in a restaurant there and had returned to stay with his family in the capital Tunis.

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