In Summary
  • Tunisia has seen rising anger over hikes in value-added tax and social contributions after a tough new budget was applied at the start of the year.
  • Activists have called for a massive demonstration on Friday against the austerity measures, which are expected to increase the cost of living.
  • In December, unemployed protesters and activists marched through the streets of Sidi Bouzid, angry over the lack of jobs and opportunities that continue to plague residents.

TUNIS

More than 200 people have been arrested and dozens of police hurt during clashes in Tunisia, the interior ministry said Wednesday, as anger over austerity measures spilt over into unrest.

The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since a 2011 revolt that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings, but seven years after the revolution tensions over economic grievances are high.

Tunisia has seen rising anger over hikes in value-added tax and social contributions after a tough new budget was applied at the start of the year.

Interior ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani told local radio that 49 police officers were wounded during a second night of clashes across the country Tuesday to Wednesday and that 206 "troublemakers" were arrested.

Properties were damaged, he said, including a branch of the Carrefour supermarket chain in the suburbs of Tunis that was looted.

A witness said youths threw stones at shop windows on Tuesday evening, taking advantage of the chaos to steal goods including electrical appliances. The police intervened, firing tear gas.

After a calm day on Wednesday, residents said demonstrators in the evening took to the streets of Tebourba, a town west of the capital Tunis where a man in his 40s died in unrest Monday night.

On a visit to a nearby town, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed condemned acts of "vandalism" that "serve the interests of corrupt networks to weaken the state", pointing the finger at a leftist party that called for protests.

The army has been deployed around banks, post offices and other government buildings in the country's main cities, the defence ministry said.

There have been no figures given for the number of protesters injured in the clashes.

STONES, TEAR GAS

On Tuesday night, hundreds of young people took to the streets of Tebourba for the funeral of the man who died.

Police have insisted they did not kill him. Health Minister Imed Hammami said that results of an autopsy would be made public on Thursday.

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