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Tunisian protesters gather at parliament

Hundreds of protesters have marched on Tunisia’s heavily barricaded parliament as it debates a controversial government reshuffle in the biggest rally since demonstrations against inequality and police abuses began this month.

Riot police blocked the march, stopping it from reaching the parliament building, but without any immediate clashes like those that have taken place nightly for more than a week and which have led to the death of a protester.

“The government that only uses police to protect itself from the people – it has no more legitimacy,” said one protester, Salem Ben Saleh, who is unemployed.

Protests broke out this month on the 10th anniversary of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that inspired that Arab Spring and introduced democracy.

Political paralysis and economic decline have soured many Tunisians on the fruits of the uprising.

In parliament, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi proposed a new cabinet, a move President Kais Saied had on Monday rejected as unconstitutional.

The political deadlock in Tunisia since elections in 2019 has paralysed its efforts to address lingering economic problems, with both foreign lenders and the main labour union demanding reforms.

Last year, as the global pandemic struck, Tunisia’s economy shrank by more than 8 per cent, with the fiscal deficit rising above 12 per cent of gross domestic product pushing the public debt to more than 90 per cent of GDP.

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