Salafi Violence Prompts Strong Reactions in Tunisia
Protestors defied Tunisian Interior Ministry officials Saturday by assembling to protest recent violence by Salafi groups in the Northeast of Tunisia. The Interior Ministry said they banned the protest because no one had asked for authorization. According to reports, the protestors clashed [French] with security forces and were dispersed forcibly by batons.
On Friday, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Interior Minister Ali Larrayedh issued statements condemning Islamist violence and warning the Salafis that security forces had the right to use live ammunition if necessary to restore order. The statements are the sternest warnings yet against the Islamist groups. Jebali also announced that the next general elections in Tunisia will be ”around the 20 or 21 March” of 2013. The elections will either be parliamentary or presidential and parliamentary, depending on the nature of the new constitution. Constituent assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar has said that the new constitution will be completed by October 23rd.
A public opinion poll of Tunisians released this week by the International Republican Institute showed 61% of respondents believed the country is headed in the wrong direction. The figure marks a 31% increase from IRI’s poll in January. Only 53% of respondents see their government as likely to address issues such as unemployment, constitutional reform, and corruption, down from 83% in January. However, this poll marks the first time approval for a secular government in Tunisia was higher than disapproval, at 47% to 44% respectively.