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Opposition, activists take seats in new Tunisian government

Arab World Materials 17 January 2011 22:16
A new Tunisian government, featuring some returning faces - but also giving members of opposition groups and civil society a significant say - was unveiled Monday as Tunisia began to rebuild after the ouster of its president last week, dpa reported.
Opposition, activists take seats in new Tunisian government

A new Tunisian government, featuring some returning faces - but also giving members of opposition groups and civil society a significant say - was unveiled Monday as Tunisia began to rebuild after the ouster of its president last week, dpa reported.

Six members of Zine el-Abidine ben Ali's government were reappointed to their posts, including Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, Defence Minister Ridha Grira and Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa.

Neither Ghannouchi or the reappointed ministers were seen as particularly close to Ben Ali, the autocratic leader of 23 years, who fled to Saudi Arabia Friday after a month-long uprising that cost 78 lives and left 94 injured.

Meanwhile, three opposition leaders - Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, Ahmed Brahim and Mustapha Ben Jaafar - were brought into government.

Chebbi, leader of the Progressive Democratic Party, the biggest of the legalized opposition parties, was named minister for regional development.

Brahim, who heads the Ettajdid Movement, a leftist party that grew out of the Communist Party, was appointed minister for higher education and scientific research.

And Ben Jaafar, leader of the Union of Freedom and Labour, another left-wing party, and a medical doctor, became health minister.

Among those representing civil society was Slim Amamou, an activist and blogger, who was appointed secretary of state for youth and sport.

The government consists of 24 ministers and 15 deputy ministers in total.

Ghannouchi also announced several measures aimed at restoring political and other basic freedoms.

From now, the state would be independent of political parties, he said, and all political prisoners would be freed.

The communication ministry set up by Ben Ali in 2005 as a propaganda tool would also be scrapped and the bans on several political parties and organizations would be reviewed, he announced.

The new government's main task will be to organize parliamentary and presidential elections within two months, as called for by the constitution when the presidency is vacated. Former parliament speaker Foued Mabazaa was named interim president on Saturday.

It was not yet clear whether the new line-up would satisfy Tunisians' hunger for a clean break with the corrupt old order.

Hundreds of people had staged a march earlier Monday in Tunis to demand that Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party be kept out of power.

Moncef Marzouki, the former head of the country's human rights league and current leader of the Congress for the Republic party, denounced the new government as a "masquerade," French public radio reported.

Marzouki earlier announced he would run for president in the upcoming elections, which will be the first free polls in the country for decades.

The European Union on Monday vowed to provide "immediate assistance" in helping organize the elections.

Tunisia's neighbours in North Africa and Europe are keeping a wary eye on developments, which prompted the evacuation of thousands of French and German tourists.

By Monday, the looting, arson and anarchy that erupted after Ben Ali's exit had begun to ease, but the situation was still tense.

The army blames Ben Ali's presidential guard for trying to stoke unrest and arrested Ben Ali's security chief.

Elsewhere, France's Le Monde daily reported that Ben Ali's wife, Leila, collected 1.5 tons of gold, worth some 60 million dollars, from the central bank before leaving Tunisia last week.

The president's wife is a member of the powerful Trabelsi clan, which controls much of Tunisia's wealth and became a symbol of the kleptocracy that riddled the country of 10 million.

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