afrol News, 27 February - Retired minister Béji Caïd Essebsi has been named Tunisia's new Prime Minister in a move that might provoke further protests in the country. Interim PM Mohamed Ghannouchi stepped down earlier today.
84-year-old Essebsi was named Tunisia's new interim Prime Minister by interim President Fouad Mebazaa. The nomination was not done in consultancy with the Tunisian opposition and protest movement.
Mr Essebsi has plaid a vital role in Tunisian politics from the 1950s to the 1980s, holding a large number of cabinet minister positions, including the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries. He has also been an ambassador and held a seat in the Tunis parliament until retirement in 1994.
Tunisia's new Prime Minister has been a key member of the RCD party, which ruled the country under the Zine el Abedine Ben Ali dictatorship. During the last decade, Mr Essebsi however has not been actively involved in politics.
The nomination of the old RCD cadre to the key position of Prime Minister may provoke the Tunisian opposition, which just a few hours before had celebrated the resignation of PM Ghannouchi; also a key RCD cadre. Interim President Mebazaa, a further RCD leader, did not consult with the opposition or protesters before the nomination.
Protests in Tunis have become stronger during the past week, as it became clear that the RCD still was holding all key positions in the country, including committees that are to reform the constitution and the electoral code. The opposition and the protesters that had secure
Tunisia's Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned on live state TV today
d the departure of ex-President Ben Ali were not allowed to participate in this reform process.
During yesterday's protests against Mr Ghannouchi and the RCD leaders, three persons were killed as police forces brutally tried to disperse the crowds in downtown Tunis. Consequently, today's protest marches against the interim government were even greater.
Mr Ghannouchi today appeared on state television, saying he had resigned as Prime Minister as he was "ready to be the person taking decisions that could end up causing casualties," in reference to the ongoing protests.
But the outgoing Prime Minister also warned against "a conspiracy being hatched against the revolution," repeating the interim government's warning against the current protesters as being outlaws dedicated to violence and looting.
Also today's massive protest march in Tunis was attacked by riot police, shooting in the air and firing teargas at the masses. Unconfirmed reports from Tunis indicate several protesters have been wounded.
The announcement of Mr Ghannouchi's resignation however caused jubilation among the protesting crowds. Protesters sent messages from the march saying that now, finally, the real transformation of Tunisia into a democracy could start. Police troops nevertheless have continued to attack protesters during the afternoon.
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