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Protesters Call for Ban of Tunisian RCD Party

Tunisian protesters shout slogans in front of the RCD party office after the sign bearing its name was dismantled, in Tunis, 20 Jan 2011
Tunisian protesters shout slogans in front of the RCD party office after the sign bearing its name was dismantled, in Tunis, 20 Jan 2011

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Lisa Bryant

Tunisia's transitional government met for the first time as protesters hardened their calls for the former ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party to be dissolved and banned.

The protests in Tunisia are smaller these days than the mass demonstrations that ousted former strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power, but protesters say they will continue their rallies until every vestige of his once all-powerful RCD party is gone.  

In Tunis, hundreds rallied in front of the RCD party headquarters and on the main Avenue Habib Bourguiba. News agencies reported several thousand people gathered in the southern town of Gafsa and elsewhere in the country.

Several ministers in the new interim government have quit RCD, including the country's interim president Fouad Mebazaa and interim prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. Tunisia's official news agency reports a junior minister resigned on Thursday after being criticized over his ties to the old Ben Ali regime.

Prime Minister Ghannouchi has enacted key reforms, including lifting the press ban, legalizing a main human rights groups and freeing political prisoners. And on Wednesday, Mebazaa vowed a complete break from the past, saying the country is turning the page.  

But that isn't enough for protesters like 30-year-old Mona Turki. "Let's say the speech from yesterday, from the new president was a little bit better. Because he has changed the tone and he's trying to make things better. But he's like the old ones. Nothing has changed."

Police fired warning shots to deter demonstrators, and helicopters flew overhead as in previous days of protests. The situation overall has calmed, though, with fewer reports of violence and looting.

Tunisian authorities also announced the arrest of 33 members of Ben Ali's family, with new reports of the state seizing their assets. Allegations of corruption surrounding the former president and his extended and wealthy clan helped fuel the national fury that drove Ben Ali from power.

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