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Tunisia's Interim Government on Shaky Ground

  • Lisa Bryant

A riot policeman faces off with protesters during a demonstration in downtown Tunis, 18 Jan 2011

A riot policeman faces off with protesters during a demonstration in downtown Tunis, 18 Jan 2011

Less than 24 hours after PM Ghannouchi announced a new government, hundreds of demonstrators were back on streets chanting for its downfall

The future of Tunisia's day-old interim government appeared in doubt Tuesday with the resignation of at least four members and fresh protests against it.

Less than 24 hours after Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced a new government, hundreds of demonstrators were back on the streets of Tunis chanting for its downfall.

As in previous days, riot police broke up the demonstrations with tear gas and chased the protesters down alleys.

The demonstrations came as at least four members of the interim government resigned. Three were members of the UGTT trade union, which played a key role in nationwide protests that led to last week's ouster of Tunisia's longtime president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The union members said they couldn't remain in a government composed of Ben Ali's ruling RCD party, which is widely perceived as corrupt and repressive.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ghannouchi went on French radio to defend the interim government. Mr. Ghannouchi said all Cabinet members who are part of the RCD have clean hands and are experienced. The ruling party retains most of the key posts, including the defense, foreign, finance and interior ministries. By contrast, the opposition was handed relatively junior posts.

Many Tunisian protesters want the RCD party barred from Tunisian politics altogether and all its members - including the country's prime minister and interim president - out of office.

Protester Samir Darbousi, a member of the UGTT trade union, accused the interim government of trying to steal the people's revolution.

The government has promised democratic elections - originally set for two months from now. More recently Prime Minister Ghannouchi extended the time table to six months from now.

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