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Resignations shake Tunisian government as spirit of protest spreads

Tunisia is in chaos today, with four newly-elected ministers resigning and the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ showing no signs of abating – the drive for change also appears to be spreading, with protests breaking out on the streets in Egypt and Yemen.

A protestor throws back tear gas at the police during clashes after a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally, RCD, party of Ben Ali in the center of Tunis, Tuesday, Jan. 18. 2011.
A protestor throws back tear gas at the police during clashes after a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally, RCD, party of Ben Ali in the center of Tunis, Tuesday, Jan. 18. 2011.
Image: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

THE POLITICAL SITUATION in Tunisia remains unstable today as four ministers of the newly formed government - unveiled just one day ago – have announced their resignations, and a fifth is reportedly considering quitting.

According to AFP, Junior minister for transport and equipment Anouar Ben Gueddour, labour minister Houssine Dimassi, a minister without a portfolio Abdeljelil Bedoui and Health minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar have all resigned. Meanwhile the Culture Minister is considering his options.

In the chaos, protesters have stormed the the headquarters of the RCD party – which the ousted president was a member of – The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” is having a significant impact across the Arab world. Earlier today in Cairo, two Egyptian men set themselves on fire – in an apparent imitation of the events that sparked off the Tunisian uprising last month – the New York Times reports. The attempts at self-immolation have been seen with increasing regularity in the region, and one man, named as Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed, has confirmed to have died today of his injuries.

The Arab press has been dominated by coverage of Tunisia in recent days, with reports that range from elated to uneasy about the implications the popular revolution might have on the region. The Economist translates one article from Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Arabiyya, which reads:

Those Arabs who sincerely care for their country should study what is happening in Tunisia and do what needs to be done immediately to recreate the same set of facts in their own land.

The Economist aslo cites Tariq al-Hameed’s article in the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, who writes:

What makes these unfolding events so serious is that, because of the closed nature of Tunisia’s repressive society, no one knows if the protests which have swept the streets are organized or spontaneous. We don’t know if this is going to end in the replacement of one dictatorship for another… We don’t know if the inscrutable Tunisia of yesterday has emerged from its closed doors or whether it has only plunged deeper into the unknown depths, adding just one more tragedy to the endless tragedies of the Arab world.

Speaking to Press TV, Iran’s state-owned channel, human rights campaigner Intissar Kherigi said the Tunisian unrest had come as a surprise, both in the Arab world and in the west: “In the eyes of most of the world Tunisia has always been a very peaceful stable country with a very good image in the west particularly,” she said “But people who know the country more closely know that this is one of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

Kherigi said that it was “unprecedented in the Arab world” that a popular revolt could bring about real political change – and warned that other repressive regimes may become even more repressive as a result: “Other examples you’ve had involved foreign intervention in Iraq or an army coup in Egypt,” she explained, “This is really the first time this has happened without foreign army intervention. And we can see already that the Arab regimes are getting very worried.”

The spirit of protest certainly appears to be spreading. In Yemen, where the government is currently debating whether to scrap the limits imposed on presidential terms, people have been taking to the streets of the capital Sana’a in solidarity with the Tunisians.

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Speaking to CNN, president of Woman Journalists Without Chains, Tawakkol Karman, said that they were calling on “the Yemeni people to wage a revolution against their corrupt leaders”. Some banners seen at the march reportedly read: “Yemen’s government should leave before they are forced to leave.”

Video by Woman Journalists Without Chains

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