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Demonstrator killed, 200 arrested in Tunisian street protest

Sheetal Sukhija - Thursday 11th January, 2018

TUNIS, Tunisia - In violent demonstrations, several hundreds of Tunisians staged street protests amid anger over government austerity measures. 

According to the country’s interior ministry, one demonstrator was killed and over 200 people were arrested in what became one of the country’s biggest upheavals since the 2011 protests.

The protests in 2011 set off a string of revolts across the Arab region.

The ministry said on Wednesday that dozens of protesters were arrested after clashes with the police this week in more than 20 towns and cities, including the capital Tunis. 

One of the protester was killed in rioting in a city and the prime minister, Youssef Chahed said the protests had descended into “acts of vandalism.”

Officials also noted that in another incident, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Jewish school but no injuries were reported in that incident.

The protests were staged in response to new taxes imposed on January 1 and underline the problems facing Chahed’s government as it seeks to implement austerity measures under a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

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These include increases in the price of subsidized petrol and tax rises on cars, phone calls, internet usage and other items. 

Further, local reports noted that the opposition party - the Popular Front has called for more protests until the authorities have repealed the 2018 budget.

According to Chokry Bahria, an analyst at the Joussour, a think-tank in Tunis, “Successive governments been squeezed between the conditions imposed by donor institutions and the needs of the social situation in the country. But governments have also failed to formulate the necessary programmes to emerge from this situation.”

Bahria said that 2018 will be the country’s “last difficult year,” is seeking to reduce Tunisia’s fiscal deficit from around 6 percent of gross domestic product in 2017 to 4.9 percent this year.

Tunisians meanwhile, mainly those that live in the impoverished interior of the country, have been struggling with high unemployment and problems that have been intensified due to the falling dinar. 

Joblessness and marginalization, especially in the interior parts of the country, were behind the uprising of 2011.

Many people now state that there has been no improvement in the past seven years.

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