Convened by the platform Fish nastannau? ("What are we waiting for?), Several hundred people have gathered at noon Tuesday in the center of the Tunisian capital to protest the price increases included in the Budget Law of 2018, ranging from gasoline to Phone calls or car purchases. The previous night there were protests in at least a dozen cities, mostly in marginalized regions of the interior, which led to riots with the police. In Tebourba, a town about 35 kilometers from Tunisia, a protester was killed by inhaling tear gas, and 44 people were arrested across the country, according to the Interior Ministry.
This is the umpteenth wave of social protests driven by unemployed young people since Túnes got rid of the Ben Ali regime in 2011, unleashing the so-called Arab springs. Although the Maghrebi country has been able to successfully complete the main phases of its democratic transition, having already held several free elections, some of the evils that led to the fall of the dictatorship continue well present. The successive elected governments have not been able to reduce the hurtful regional inequalities, stop the corruption that gangrene public administration or reduce youth unemployment, which in some areas rises to 40%.
Given this panorama, the policy of cuts by the Executive for the new year has served as an incentive for the reappearance of the protests. "The people want the budget to fall!" Was one of the most anti-government slogans in the demonstration. "The budget condenses the country's problems: the increase in the cost of basic products, unemployment, the deterioration of public administrations. That's why our main demand is their withdrawal, "says Wael Naur, one of the founders of Fish nastannau, a social movement created on January 3 that has spread rapidly among the most politically active Tunisian youth.
"This demonstration is also against police repression. Simply, for having written some communiqués and having called for peaceful demonstrations, about 50 of our activists have been arrested, "denounces Naur, an official of the Ministry of Education wearing an old wool hat. After his speech in front of the crowd, Zeinab Bin Ahmed, a Tebourba activist, takes the floor, where the only mortal victim of the revolt occurred.
"The demonstration was peaceful until the police began to disperse us with tear gas ... It is not true, as Interior has said, that Jomsi al-Yerfeni died as a result of a chronic illness. They ran over him in front of our eyes! ", Shouts angrily. "The Ministry of the Interior, is a terrorist Ministry," the crowd explodes at the end of their testimony.
The reaction of the Government has remained within the usual parameters, combining the criminalization of the demonstrators with some phrases of compression for the malaise of broad layers of Tunisian society. "People must understand that the situation is extraordinary, and the country is experiencing difficulties, but we believe that 2018 will be the last difficult year for Tunisians," said Prime Minister Yusuf Chahed, who recalled the assault on a supermarket in a Tunis neighborhood and the damage caused in several public buildings. "At night, we have not seen protests, but people who break things, steal and attack the Tunisians," Radio Mosaique told Radio.
The government's room for maneuver is limited. After seven years with an annual public deficit close to 10% of GDP to cope with the fall of foreign investment and tourism, the debt now exceeds 70% and threatens to rush the country into bankruptcy. Hence, the Executive's austerity policy, which in 2016 signed a loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) worth 2,400 million euros. For its part, the main opposition party, the leftist Popular Front, has announced its intention to intensify the mobilizations to force a change of direction in government policies.