Daily Israel Report

Tunisia's President Sets Election Date Amid Resignations

Following the resignation of Tunisia's prime minister and three other ministers, interim President Mebazza sets elections for July 24th.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/4/2011, 1:00 PM / Last Update: 3/4/2011, 2:19 PM

Fouad Mebazza, Tunisia's interim president, has set parliamentary elections for July 24th, Tunis Afrique Presse reported. Mebazza intends to remain in office until the new parliament begins to work. The interim president's decision to remain came in the wake of resignations by the prime minister and at least three other officials earlier in the week.

Tunisia was the first nation in the Arab world to experience a sudden, violent spark of protests against its government, which spread throughout the region in January. But the flight of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country since 1987, did not end protests in the North African country.

On Sunday, following the deaths of three protesters and injury of nine others in Tunis, Ben Ali's prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi also departed. "I am not willing to be a person that takes decisions that could cause casualties," Ghannouchi told reporters. The departing prime minister also questioned, "why a lot of people considered their main target to keep attacking the government, although a lot of its members agreed to join in this critical time."

Following Ghannouchi's lead, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Nouri Jouini resigned on Monday. On Tuesday, the minister of higher education and scientific planning, Ahmad Ibrahim, and the higher education secretary, Faouzia Farida Charfi, also quit.

To fill the vacuum of power, Interim President Mebazza appointed Al-Baji Qa'ed Al-Sebsi as the country's new prime minister Sunday, state-run media reported.

In the wake of Sunday's deathsm more than 100 people were arrested in the vicinity of Habib Bourguiba Avenue, in Tunis' center, and charged with "acts of destruction and burning." Protesters had gathered in the area to demand that the interim government step down and the parliament be disbanded. They also asked that the Tunisian constitution be suspended and for the election of an assembly who can write a new one while transitioning to democracy.

Despair has run deep in Tunisia with pervasive corruption, unemployment, and soaring food prices driving demands for reform. Protests erupted after the self-immolation suicide of a fruit cart vendor in December.