Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunisian trade union does not recognize new government, four ministers resign

Updated: Tunisia's main trade union, UGTT,  has decided 'not to recognise' the new Tunisian government of 'national unity'. The union (best known by its French name Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens) decided this on Tuesday at an extraordinary meeting near Tunis. The reason was the make-up of the government, in which no less than eight ministers of the Rassemblement Constituniole Démocratique (RCD), the party of fomer president Ben Ali kept their posts, which apart from the prime minister, include the key portfolios of the Interior, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Finance. The UGTT advised its three representatives in the new government to resign.
People with signs 'RCD out'  and 'RCD dégage' in a street in Tunis.

As a consequence the ministers Houssine Dimassi (Labour), Abdeljelil Bedoui (without portfolio) and minister of state for Transport Anouar Ben Gueddour gave up their seats  in the cabinet. Lateron also minister Mustafa ben Jaafar of the ´Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés´ left the government, one day after he had been installed as minister of Public Health.
Prime minister Ghannouchi and president Fouad Mebazaa gave up their membership of  the ruling RCD- party in the course of the day. However,  the Ettajdid party threatens to leave the governement as well, if not all RCD ministers sever their ties with the party. If they fail to do so, also a fifth minister, Ettajdid- minister Ahmed Ibrahim of Higher Education, will quit.    
The UGTT, which played an important role in the protests that led to the fall of president Ben Ali, was not the only one force that voiced its opposition to the make-up of the new government. Demonstrations took place throughout the country to protest the continued strong presence of the RCD. Several demonstrations were reported in the capital Tunis. Police used teargas and charges to disperse crowds in more than place. In one case a crowd  of about 1000 people was dispersed, which according to the Algerian newspaper Al Watan waqs attended by  Sadok Chourou of the islamist An Nahda party. In other places people held signs with - see picture (taken by Ayman Mohieldin of Al Jazeera) -  texts like ''RCD dégage'' and 'RCD out'. Big demonstrations against the new government took also place in Sfax (5000 people), Gabès, Bizerte, Sidi Bouzid, Erregueb and Monastir.   
Police disperse a demonstration in Tunis

Moncef Marzouki, medical doctor, human rights activist and leader of the ´Congres pour la Republique´ party returned on Tuesday from, exile to Tunis. He was met by a crowd of his supporters at Tunis airport, who sang the national anthem, yelled and shouted 'Al-tajamaa ala barra' (The Rassemblement out). For a video of this emotional moment: click here
 Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the islamist party An Nahda who lives in exile in London, however, was told that he  cannot yet return. He has to wait until a new law on the amnesty for political opponents of the former regime is adopted that will nullify a prison sentence against him that apparently is considered  to be still valid.

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