2011-01-18 Reaction to Tunisia's new government

Yesterday, Tunisia's new government was announced. Today, four of the new ministers resigned in accord with protesters who continued to demand the complete resignation of the old regime. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is one of eight ministers of former president Ben Ali's government who will remain in the new government announced yesterday.

Junior Minister for Transportation and Equipment Anouar Ben Gueddour resigned along with Houssine Dimassi, the labor minister, and minister of prime ministerial affairs Abdeljelil Bedoui. All three are members of labour union UGIT. The labour union's supporters staged a protest Tunis today, calling for a general strike, constitutional changes and the release of all imprisoned union leaders.

Al Aribya reports

Health Minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar of the FDLT opposition party also resigned, party member Hedi Raddaoui told The AP. It was not immediately clear if the resignations could bring down the government, which has 40 full and junion ministers. Speaking to the AP, Ahmed Ibrahim, the new minister for higher education from the opposition Ettajdid party, denied reports he'd resigned.

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri said the government is in talks with other members of the opposition in the cabinet who are considering resigning unless certain conditions are met.

Moncef Marzouki, an exiled opposition leader and presidential hopeful, on Monday branded his country's new government a "masquerade" still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

"Tunisia deserved much more," the secular leftist declared.

"Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the CRD," Marzouki said.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reported that Marzouki, a 65-year-old medical doctor and human rights activist, was met by a crowd on his supporters at Tunis airport on Tuesday.

Marzouki told them that he would ask Saudi Arabia to hand over Ben Ali to be prosecuted in Tunisia for "crimes committed against the people of Tunisia".

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the so-called unity government.

He expressed anger at the exclusion, but said his party would consider joining the government if asked to do so.

The labour union UGIT refused to recognize the government. Protests continue in the capital and several other major cities, while police attempt to prevent protesters from gathering by using tear gas to break up crowds.

Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia's interior minister, announced that 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil.

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