Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013
Last update 15 January 2013 1:33 am
TUNIS: Tunisians marked the second anniversary yesterday of veteran dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s flight into exile in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings but insecurity and social tensions persist.
A deadlock over a new constitution and the growing influence of radicals are further challenges facing the nation since Ben Ali fled. Thousands of Tunisians protested against the government yesterday.
More than 8,000 secular demonstrators gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis’s Bourguiba Avenue, the same spot where mass protests forced Ben Ali to accept his rule was over and flee the country on Jan. 14, 2011.
Protesters filled the central boulevard, carrying banners that read “No fear, no horror, power belongs to the people” and “No to emerging dictatorship ... No to religious dictatorship.” “Ennahda out, down with the (Muslim) Brotherhood Party,” chanted the demonstrators, waving red and white Tunisian flags. “Where is the constitution? Where is democracy?” On Sunday, the army deployed in the southern border town of Ben Guerdane after a week of clashes between police and residents demanding development projects to revive the area’s local economy and reduce unemployment.
A festive mood nevertheless swept over Tunis where street concerts and cultural events were held throughout the weekend along central Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
“In a few hours we will know if all these different factions of Tunisians can coexist... It is a real test of democracy that will take place tomorrow in the heart of the capital,” Le Quotidien newspaper said on Sunday.
The Interior Ministry has urged everyone to respect the peace but said it was taking “necessary precautions” should violence break out.
Last month, hundreds of government supporters and leftists clashed in the capital, stoking fears about the success of the transition to democracy.