Tens of thousands rally against Tunisian government

AFP , Friday 25 Feb 2011

Tunisisan protesters demand the removal of Ghannouchi government set up by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Tens of thousands of Tunisians rallied Friday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed 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 that the number of people topped 100,000.

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

Tunisians "are living in a political vacuum," a law student who gave his name only as Ramzi told AFP. "We demand the firing of the whole government and of Ghannouchi," he said.

Ghannouchi's caretaker government, tasked with leading Tunisia to elections due in about five months, has faced regular protests demanding it root out vestiges of the old regime.

These include Ghannouchi, who was prime minister under Ben Ali for over a decade since 1999, and several ministers.

Ghannouchi left his offices in the Kasbah complex late January after the first protests against him there.

Friday's rally was swelling, an AFP reporter said, and a Red Crescent worker said more than 30 people had fainted because of the huge number of people, who included youths draped in the Tunisian flag.

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

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