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Protesters’ Anger Ignited After Political Assassination in Tunisia

Rallying for Slain Politician
Tunisian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration outside the Interior ministry in Tunis on February 6, after the death of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid, pictured in the poster. Photo by Anis Mili/ Reuters.

After the assassination of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Tunisia’s secular opposition Popular Front said it would pull out of the constituent assembly charged with writing a constitution, triggering the prime minister to dissolve the current transitional government.

Tunisia’s revolution supposedly ended in January 2011, with the ousting of authoritarian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian people quickly elected officials assigned to define the rules for a new political system.

However tensions reached a new apex with the death of opposition leader Belaid, who, Reuters reported, was shot four times outside his home in Tunis Wednesday, .

As the leading member of the Popular Front, a group of 12 opposition parties in Tunisia, Belaid was a vocal critic of growing influence of conservative and Islamist political parties in the country, including the ruling Islamist-led Ennahda party. His death triggered the largest protests in Tunisia since the uprising at the start of the nation’s “Jasmine Revolution” in 2009.

Slain Opposition Leader
Photo by Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Crowds poured onto the streets after news that Belaid’s body was brought by ambulance to a hospital in Tunis. The protesters began calling out a well-known slogan of the Arab revolutions: “the people want the fall of the regime,” now being used in reference to Tunisia’s transitional government.

Assassination Crime Scene
Photo by Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Forensic inspectors examined the car of prominent Tunisian opposition politician Shokri Belaid after his body is taken to the hospital via ambulance. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali stated that the identity of the killer of Chokri Belaid was still unknown.

Photo by the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with members of the European Parliament Wednesday, interim President Moncef Marzouki denounced the killing of Belaid and spoke of the implications for Tunisia’s already delicate government.

“Tunisia is the true laboratory of transition and is determined to succeed (although) the process of democratization has proven to be more difficult and a longer process that originally envisaged.”
— President Moncef Marzouki

Shouting Slogans Photo by Anis Mili/Reuters

Thousands of Tunisian protesters gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis to protest the death of Belaid. Many of the protesters blamed the Islamist-led Ennahda party for the opposition leader’s death.

Belaid had been very vocal about his opposition of strong influence of conservatives and political Islamists in Tunisian politics. Al Arabiya English reported that on the eve of his death, Belaid denounced what he saw as “[their] attempts to dismantle the state and the creation of militias to terrorize citizens and drag the country into a spiral of violence”.

Political Protest
Photo by REUTERS/ Zoubeir Souissi.

Protesters gestured to the police during the demonstrations in front of the Interior Ministry in Tunis.

Dispersing Protesters
Photo by REUTERS/ Zoubeir Souissi.

As the demonstrations escalated, police officers attempted to disperse protesters by firing tear gas into the crowds. Protesters fought back with stones.

Avoiding Teargas
Protesters run for cover in order to avoid the effects of tear gas. Photo by REUTERS/ Zoubeir Souissi.

Belaid’s death could affect Tunisia’s hope for a smooth transition to a new government structure. After the news spread of the assassination, Belaid’s [Popular Front coalition announced]http://bigstory.ap.org/article/tunisian-govt-says-leader-opposition-party-shot-death-amid-tensions-over-extremists they would pull out of the constitutional assembly responsible for writing the new governing charter.

Tunisia’s prime minister then announced he’s dissolving the government and will form an interim government of technocrats to lead to new elections.

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