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Tunisia extends state of emergency for a month

February 6, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Tunisian parliament in session [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]

The Tunisian government has extended the country’s state of emergency for another month, amid on-going political tensions as elections approach later this year.

Tunisian President Caid Essebsi signed a bill extending emergency laws on Monday, after consultation with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mohamed Ennaceur on issues related to national security.

Tunisian emergency law grants the interior minister exceptional powers, including carrying out home arrests, banning official meetings, imposing curfews, monitoring media and press, prohibiting assemblies and media censorship without judicial approval.

Tunisia has occupied a state of emergency for more than three years; it was first instated in November 2015 after a suicide bomb was detonated next to a van carrying members of the presidential guard, which killed 12 officers and injured several others. It has since been extended numerous times, the last occasion being in January.

The country has also witnessed dozens of protests over the past year against austerity measures, implemented as part of the government’s commitment to an IMF conditional loan programme in 2016 worth some $2.8 billion.

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Last month, the powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) brought the country to a standstill as it staged a one-day nationwide strike to protest against the government’s refusal to raise the salaries of 670,000 public servants.

However economic difficulties have served as a trigger of terror attacks, after the government revealed that a suicide blast carried out by a woman last October was an “isolated act”, committed after years of the perpetrator being unemployed.

Tunisia’s economy has been in turmoil since the 2011 revolution toppled President Zein El-Abidine Ben Ali. Slow economic growth has also been complicated by continuing political instability; the country has witnessed seven prime ministers since the ousting of Ben Ali and government reshuffles are a regular occurrence.

In December, Chahed said his government could not find the political support to implement economic reforms, subsequently appointing ten new ministers in a cabinet reshuffle in a renewed attempt to resolve the crisis. However, in a sign of growing distrust inside the ruling party, President Essebsi rejected the reshuffle, stating that the prime minister authorised it without consulting him.

Despite parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for the end of this year, 75 per cent of young Tunisians are reportedly reluctant to participate, citing the lack of improvement of their socioeconomic circumstances, and their disappointment with political parties that did not stick to their election promises after previous polls.

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