Tunisia’s parliament approves cabinet reshuffle amid mounting protests


The Tunisian parliament approved this morning (Wednesday) a controversial cabinet reshuffle that deepened the political dispute between the president and the prime minister, at the end of a day that witnessed demonstrations outside the parliament headquarters surrounded by many checkpoints and hundreds of police forces protesting against social injustice, widespread unemployment and police violence.

Earlier in the day, Tunisian security forces fired water cannons at protesters outside parliament in an attempt to break up the largest demonstration since the protests began this month.

Hundreds of protesters participated in a march from the Tadamon neighborhood in the capital, which witnessed nightly clashes between youths and the police for more than a week, and then hundreds of others joined them near Parliament.

The ministerial reshuffle, which won Parliament approval, included 11 ministers, including new ministers for justice, interior and health, after the prime minister excluded ministers close to President Qais Saeed.

“The protesting youth outside parliament reminds us of our priorities. Their protests are legitimate … the government will listen to the angry youth,” Prime Minister Hisham El-Mechichi said in a speech.

But Saeed indicated that he would reject the amendment, in a sharp escalation of the dispute with the prime minister, while the political impasse undermines efforts to address the Corona pandemic and its economic repercussions, indicating that the cabinet reshuffle will be procedurally unconstitutional, denouncing the absence of women among the new ministers, stressing that some of them Surrounded by the suspicion of conflicts of interest.

Police set up barriers in front of the marchers to prevent them from approaching the parliament building, as the members were holding heated discussions about a controversial cabinet reshuffle.

Later, the police also prevented entry to Habib Bourguiba Street as the protesters tried to gather there. The Ministry of Interior is located on this main street in the Tunisian capital, and major demonstrations are usually held there.

The protests erupted this month on the tenth anniversary of the Tunisian revolution in 2011, and the political stalemate and economic decline worsened, prompting many Tunisians to question the fruits of the revolution.

Tunisia’s political deadlock since elections in 2019 has hampered its efforts to tackle worsening economic problems, while foreign lenders and the Tunisian General Labor Union demand swift reforms.

Last year, with the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, the Tunisian economy shrank by more than eight percent, and the fiscal deficit increased to more than 12 percent of GDP, which pushed public debt to more than 90 percent of GDP.

In addition to the nightly clashes between youths and the police, the daytime protests increased, during which the demonstrators chanted the slogan “The people want to bring down the regime.”

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