Hundreds arrested as clashes rock Tunisia

Hundreds arrested as clashes rock Tunisia

It is significant that the center of the protests has not been Tunis, the country's capital and the stronghold of these political institutions dominated by the more privileged layers of the middle class, but rather the impoverished towns of the interior.

More than 200 people have been arrested across Tunisia during a second night of protests, a government spokesperson has said.

An AFP correspondent in the northern town of Siliana said police fired tear gas at dozens of youths who pelted them with stones during skirmishes that lasted around three hours overnight. The eight governments that have followed have also been under pressure from powerful labor unions demanding that the social justice sought during the 2011 uprising is translated into greater opportunities for the Tunisian people, including higher wages.

"Today we have a meeting with the opposition parties to coordinate our movements, but we will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law will be dropped", Hammami said.

While Tunisia is held up by some as the only democratic success story among countries swept up in the "Arab Spring", it has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.

Protests are common in Tunisia in January, when the country marks the anniversary of the revolution that ousted Ben Ali.

January 2016 saw the biggest wave of public discontent since the uprising as the death of an unemployed protester in Kasserine sparked days of unrest.

On Wednesday, the Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, accused the opposition of fuelling dissent by calling for more protests.

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The defence ministry said the army was now protecting banks, post offices and other government buildings in Tunisia's main cities.

The Popular Front has called for peaceful protests to overturn the Finance Act, according to reports from Tunisia.

During the riots, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails trying to set fire to the famous Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba.

Akrem, a 27-year-old protester who declined to give his surname because he fears the police, said unemployment and misery were rife in Tebourba.

"The protests are over the cost of living", one protester in Tunis told the BBC.

Last year, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund agreed a four-year loan programme worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, tied to economic reforms.

The 2018 budget includes price and tax increases effective from Jan 1.

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