Tunisian Parliament meets after ruling party banned

AFP , Monday 7 Feb 2011

Tunisia's parliament met Monday to vote emergency powers for the country's interim president after the government banned the ruling party of ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Protesters demonstrate against the regime in Tunis 14 January 2011. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi told the 125 deputies present in the 214-seat parliament that they had to approve the measure in order to bring peace to a country still mired in turmoil three weeks after Ben Ali was ousted in a popular revolt.

"Time is precious. Tunisia has real need of rule by decree to remove dangers," he said at the first parliamentary session since Ben Ali's overthrow.
"There are people who want Tunisia to go backwards but we must honour our martyrs who fought for liberty."

A vote on the new legislation will take place later Monday before the measure goes before the upper house of parliament, the Senate.

If approved it will give interim president Foued Mebazaa power to rule by decree and sidestep a parliament dominated by the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD), the party of Ben Ali which was suspended on Sunday.

Eighty percent of deputies belong to the long-feared RCD, which had a monopoly on power under Ben Ali and could still stand in the way of reform.
Prior to Monday's vote hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside parliament demanding the dissolution of the assembly, known as the unpopular RDC's one-time power base.

The suspension on Sunday is a first step towards dissolving the party which opponents fear could return to power following elections scheduled for six months from now.

The party claims two million members out of a total population of 10 million and remains a well-organised political group which could mount a strong political campaign.
Under the suspension, the RDC is banned from organising meetings and public gatherings while its offices have been shut down.

The government moved to suspend the party in part to soothe renewed bouts of violence that have broken out after it relaxed a curfew imposed on January 12.

The interim government, which replaced top police chiefs and the governors of all of Tunisia's 24 provinces just days before, had hoped the move would help calm the unrest.

But protesters and opposition politicians are calling for a more thorough shakeup, judging some of the newly named governors too close to the old regime and the RDC.

In unrest northwest of the capital on Sunday 40 people were injured, one badly burned in the torching of a police station, in the town of Kef, hospital sources said.

In the southern town of Kebili, one youth died after he was hit by a tear gas canister during clashes with security forces, the state news agency TAP reported.

An interior ministry source said that two people were killed and 13 injured, including four policemen, in street protests in Kef on Saturday.

Several hundred demonstrators had been calling for Kef police chief Khaled Ghazouani to be sacked for abuse of power, according to TAP.

By Monday calm was restored in the town with soldiers patrolling the streets, local union official Raouf Hadaoui told AFP by telephone from Tunis.

TAP meanwhile reported the arrests of two members of the security forces suspected over the deaths of two detainees in Sidi Bouzid, in the centre of the country.
It was in Sidi Bouzid that a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, died after setting himself on fire on December 17, triggering the uprising.

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