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Parliament backs cabinet reshuffle after a week of protests against inequalities and police brutality

Standoff between the president and prime minister over naming of new minister complicates political crisis

President Kais Saied, who has taken a conciliatory line towards the youthful demonstrators in Tunis and the major cities, is opposing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi's choice of 11 new ministers to rejuvenate the government. President Saied criticised the choice, lamenting the lack of women and possible conflicts of interest among some nominees (AC Vol 61 No 15, In search of confidence).

The week of protests, which mark a decade since the protests of 2011 drove out President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, are prompting concern among political leaders that the country's democratic institutions could be broken by another uprising (AC Vol 61 No 7, The spring unsprung). Many of the protestors target their rage against Prime Minister Mechichi, who has described them as hoodlums.

A succession of weak governments: eight prime ministers in the 10 years since the toppling of Ben Ali, combined with a stagnant economy has resulted in falling voter turn-out at successive elections. But there now appears to be a strong possibility that the protests against rising poverty and unemployment could spin out of control.

Economic forecasts for the medium term are bleak. Repayments on a $2.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund will come due in the coming months and the economy has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Output in 2020 fell by 7% following several years of slow growth.

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