3 more ministers quit Tunisian cabinet


Three more ministers left Tunisia’s interim government, following the resignations of the prime minister and two others, after weeks of protests about the caretaker authority.

Ahmed Ibrahim, higher education and scientific research minister, told the Reuters news agency he had resigned on Tuesday, while the departure of Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, local development minister, was announced by the official TAP news agency.

Also on Tuesday, private Tunisian radio broadcaster Shems FM reported Elyes Jouini, minister of economic reform, had resigned.

These resignations come after three other high profile politicians quit Tunisia’s interim unity government since the weekend, including prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who stepped down on Sunday.

“Elyes Jouni was a member of [ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s party] the RCD and like Mohamed Ghannouchi was under pressure to leave,” said Nazanine Moshiri, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tunisia.

After Ghannouchi resigned, he was swiftly replaced by 84-year-old Al-Baji Ca’ed al-Sebsi, a former minister who served under independent Tunisia’s founding president, Habib Bourguiba.

Opposition figures

Chebbi, who founded the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said he was not happy with the newly named prime minister, the Associated Press reported.

Chebbi said the new government measures were aimed at keeping him from seeking the presidency, AP said.

“Najib Chebbi and Ahmed Ibrahim are both opposition figures,” Al Jazeera’s Moshiri said. “They have resigned not because they have RCD links, but because the president Foued Mebazaa will not be renewing his temporary status as interim president which ends on March 17th.”

“If this isn’t resolved after that date, the military could be in charge of the country until the election,” our correspondent added.

Ghannouchi, along with Mohamed Nouri Jouini, minister for planning and international cooperation, and Mohamed Afif Chelbi, industry and technology minister – who both resigned on Monday – were among the last remaining ministers who had previously served under ousted President Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s new prime minister Sebsi, meanwhile, plans to announce the creation of a constitutional council charged with rewriting the constitution ahead of elections expected to take place in July, Reuters reported.

Tunisia has been struggling to restore stability since Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, was forced from office in January by a wave of anti-government protests.

Continued demonstrations

Protesters in the country had demanded all ministers associated with Ben Ali’s regime quit the interim government.

On Monday, protesters camping outside government offices in the capital Tunis for over a week, were demanding that the government be purged of ministers with links to Ben Ali.

“We will continue our sit-in until the formation of a constituent assembly and the recognition of the Council for the Protection of the Revolution,” Mohamed Fadhel, a protest co-ordinator, said.

Demonstrators are wary that the weeks-long uprising that ended Ben Ali’s rule on January 14, and triggered revolts elsewhere in the Arab world, could be hijacked by members of the old regime still in positions of authority.

After leaving his post on Sunday, Ghannouchi said “I am not running away from responsibility … This is to open the way for a new prime minister.

“I am not ready to be the person who takes decisions that would end up causing casualties,” added the former prime minister, who had led Tunisia since Ben Ali fled the country.

“He’s been under real pressure since he took over, and that pressure increased in the past 48 hours,” Al Jazeera’s Moshiri said on Sunday.

Protesters have also demanded the establishment of a parliamentary system. The interim government has meanwhile pledged elections by mid-July. Aljazeera



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