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World

Tunisia holds tense confidence votes on new cabinet

  • Lawmakers criticised a heavy police deployment around the parliament building after calls for a rally there.
26 Jan 2021

TUNIS: Tunisia's parliament began a heated session Tuesday to approve a major cabinet reshuffle, after the president criticised the line-up and as tensions in the country run high.

Tunisia has seen a wave of night-time clashes this month, with security forces carrying out mass arrests as the novel coronavirus and lockdown measures exacerbate the North African country's economic and political crises.

The session comes a day after protesters clashed with police in the town of Sbeitla, in Tunisia's marginalised centre, after a young man hit by a tear gas canister during clashes last week died in hospital.

Lawmakers criticised a heavy police deployment around the parliament building after calls for a rally there.

"A vote of confidence under police siege," one said. "All that's missing is to vote under the threat of the baton."

Activists have held daytime protests against police repression, corruption and poverty, 10 years after the revolution that overthrew autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Twenty-eight civil society groups, had called for a demonstration Tuesday against police repression, in front of parliament.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced the sweeping reshuffle, which affects 11 ministries including the interior, justice and health portfolios, in mid-January.

In a new sign of growing tensions between the two men, President Kais Saied criticised the absence of women in the new line-up and said he had not been consulted.

Without naming names, Saied also said Monday that one of the proposed ministers was "involved in a corruption case" and that three others were suspected of having conflicts of interest.

The reshuffle came after the sacking of the interior minister earlier in January, and of former environment minister Mustapha Aroui, who was arrested in December in a scandal involving waste shipped from Italy.

Mechichi has said his aim is "greater efficiency in the work of the government".

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