Leader of Moderate Tunisia Flees Country – Prime Minister Takes Over

The President of Tunisia fled the country today amid escalating jobless protests.
Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi took over control of the moderate Muslim nation.

The BBC reported: The wave of protests was triggered by the death of an unemployed graduate, who set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit.


Tunisia’s long-standing president has left the country amid violent protests and the prime minister has taken over control of the government.

“Since the president [Zine El Abidine Ben Ali] is temporarily unable to exercise his duties, it has been decided that the prime minister will exercise temporarily the [presidential] duties,” Mohammed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian prime minister, said on state television.

Ghannouchi is now the interim president. He cited chapter 56 of the Tunisian constitution as the article by which he was assuming power.

Noureddine Miladi, a sociology and media lecturer of Tunisian origin, told Al Jazeera what Ghannouchi did was unconstitutional.

“It is manipulation of the constitution. It has been argued by the likes of Iyad bin Ashur, one of the top lawyers in Tunisia. He argues that the head of parliament is the only legitimate party able to form a legitimate [caretaker] government, for about 45 days and then [they must] call for elections,” Miladi said.

“He [the speaker of the parliament] is supposed to oversee the success of the election. Ghannouchi is part of the same corrupt political elite as Ben Ali. There is nothing new in what happened today, it is a different twist of the game.”

Tensions remain high despite Ben Ali’s exit, with protesters reported to be ransacking government buildings in the capital, Tunis, and other cities. Citizens have made appeals for protection of their property, as several provinces are currently reporting unrest.

Protesters are reportedly demanding that the new interim president, a close Ben Ali ally, stand down.

Saudi Arabia officially anoounced early on Saturday that it was hosting Ben Ali and his family.

A palace statement carried by the official SPA news agency confirmed that Ben Ali arrived early on Saturday in the kingdom.

Of course, Al-Qaeda released a statement today backing the anti-government protesters.

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