TUNISIA PROTESTS: Tunisians rally in tens of thousands against government 25Feb11 February 26, 2011

Al Arabiya -  25 February 2011

Tens of thousands of Tunisians rallied Friday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi’s transitional government set up after last month’s ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Demonstrators chanted “Ghannouchi Leave” and “Shame on This Government” as army helicopters circled above the crowd massed in the Kasbah government quarter, where police estimated the number of people at over 100,000, according to AFP.

It was the biggest of several rallies against the transitional authority since the fall of long-time ruler Ben Ali on Jan. 14 following weeks of demonstrations, protesters and Red Crescent workers estimated.

Tunisians, whose uprising sparked others rocking the Arab world, are angry that figures from Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, such as Ghannouchi, are still in power and fear their revolution could be hijacked.

Demonstrators marched down the capital’s main Habib Bourguiba Avenue towards the Kasbah shouting “Revolution Until Victory” and “We Will Root Out Repression in Our Land”.

They also chanted “Ghannouchi, Take Your Dogs and Go” and “No to the Confiscation of the Revolution”.

“We are here today to topple the government,” said Tibini Mohammed, a 25-year-old student.

Ghannouchi’s caretaker government, established on Jan. 17 and tasked with leading Tunisia to elections, has faced regular protests demanding it root out vestiges of the old regime.

Ghannouchi, prime minister under Ben Ali from 1999, bowed to the pressure and removed some of the controversial figures in a Jan. 27 reshuffle.

His government has introduced several reforms but has not yet fixed a date for the election, meant to be held within six months from Ben Ali’s ouster.

Ghannouchi left his offices in the Kasbah complex late January after the first protests, which lasted nearly a week.

Tunisians “are living in a political vacuum,” a law student who gave his name only as Ramzi told AFP at the Kasbah rally, against a background of continuing instability after the uprising and as Tunisians see little improvement to their daily lives.

“We demand the firing of the whole government and of Ghannouchi,” he said, among youths who were draped in the Tunisian flag.

Demonstrators, mobilized over Facebook, also shouted slogans against Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Assembly party, which was suspended on Feb. 6 ahead of its dissolution.

On Sunday 4,000 people protested in front of the Kasbah to demand the sacking of the transitional government as well as the election of a constituent assembly and installation of a parliamentary system.

The fall of Ben Ali after 23 years in power sparked similar uprisings in the Arab world, including one that led to the stepping down of long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11 and another under way in Libya.

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