Tunis - Protests in Tunisia have expanded to major cities such as Beja, Nabeul, Qebily, Bizerte and Sidi Bouzid, after initially breaking out in a number of poor neighborhoods in the capital, and in Monouba, Gafsa and Kasserine.
Security forces have reportedly arrested more than 230 people in the protests, which were triggered by unemployment and rising prices of basic goods.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Belhassen al-Waslati, said military forces were deployed in a number of states “to secure the authorities’ headquarters and public facilities, and protect them from the dangers of looting, theft and sabotage.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the authorities and security and military leaders were coordinating measures taken in response to the protests.
The deteriorating security situation over the past two days led to the exchange of accusations between the political parties over the responsibility for the protests. The ruling coalition, led by the Nidaa Party and Nahda Movement, called for a national conference to discuss all economic and social issues, with the participation of the country’s political and civil movements.
Despite the escalating situation, government sources denied adopting a decision to impose a curfew at night, but did not rule it out in the event of continued night protests, theft, looting and vandalism, which have targeted a number of public and private facilities.
The current three-month state of emergency, which ends on February 10, allows for a series of extraordinary measures, such as banning rallies, protests and publications.
Opposition parties, led by the Popular Front, have tried to refute the charge of leading night protests, stressing that it had only called for a peaceful protest against the 2018 finance law.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ammar Amroussieh, a leader of the Popular Front coalition, said that his movement had already warned the ruling coalition of the danger of the 2018 Finance Act, explaining that the new budget would produce social unrest and increase poverty and marginalization.
Meanwhile, Khalifa al-Shaibani, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, revealed that recent confrontations have resulted in the arrest of 237 people involved in looting, burning, theft, damage to property and storming of security headquarters.
He added that clashes between the security forces and the protesters have led to the injury of 49 members of the security forces, nine in the ranks of the National Guard, and damaged 45 security vehicles belonging to the police units, and 12 cars belonging to the National Guard.