Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed sought to calm anti-austerity protesters today with promises of an end to economic hardship, a day after one demonstrator was killed in clashes with police, Reuters reported.
Protests erupted in more than ten towns across Tunisia yesterday against price and tax increases imposed by the government to reduce a ballooning deficit and an economic crisis. One protestor was killed in Tebourba, a town 40 kilometres west of Tunis.
Khelifa Chibani, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said 44 people had been arrested for carrying weapons such as knives, setting government buildings on fire and looting shops.
PM Chahed told reporters that while demonstrations were acceptable, violence was not.
"People have to understand that the situation is extraordinary and their country has difficulties but we believe that 2018 will be the last difficult year for the Tunisians," Chahed said.
Anger has been building up since the government said that, from 1 January, it would increase the price of gasoil, some goods and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items, part of austerity measures agreed with its foreign lenders.
"What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes…Yesterday protesters burned down two police stations, they looted shops, banks and damaged property in many cities," spokesman Chibani said.
Tunisia's economy has been in crisis since a 2011 uprising unseated the government.