By The Dawn News / January 12, 2018
This week the government of Tunisia introduced the budget of 2018 which includes an increase in prices on common household products and an increase in taxes. The civil society and left-wing organizations took the streets in different parts of Tunisia to show their rejection to this budget plan which would have serious impacts on the poor and working class. The government has responded to these protests with violence and repression.
These austerity measures are not necessarily surprising. A year ago, the Tunisian government agreed to a loan programme with the International Monetary Fund of four years that is worth around $2.8 billion dollars. Of course, on the condition is that the government implements IMF style economic reforms which entail cutting the public sector spending and tax increases, measures which affect the working class and that plunge an already struggling people into further poverty and unemployment.
Tunisian people been on the streets since Monday, and since then at least 500 people have been arrested (some sources claim almost 800) and one civilian has been killed during the unrest. This week there have also been incidents of looting, which the right-wing has taken advantage of to delegitimize the just protests of the people and has vilified the left-wing movements in the mainstream media.
The left-wing youth coalition Fesh Nestannew? (What Are We Waiting For?) and the Tunisian Popular Front have been at the front of these massive protests and thus have been the primary targets of government repression. Numerous members of the Popular Front from different parts of the country have been detained and the office of the Popular Front of El Aroussa, in the northwest region of Tunisia, was burned under suspicious circumstances. Hamma Hammami an important leader from the Popular Front from the same city has received death threats.
For many, the memories of the protests of 2011, which started the “Arab Spring” and managed to take out the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, are still fresh, and though there now is democracy in Tunisia, the government continues to respond to the people’s demands with violence. The protests will surely continue and it remains to be seen if the government will respond with real changes to their demands.
The statement from the Popular Front (Popular Front for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution) in response to the 2018 budget:
Since the beginning of the new year, the Tunisian people have been living under a new wave of price influxes for most consumer goods, fuel, gas and services, in response to the unprecedented increases in the Finance Law imposed by the ruling coalition controlling the People’s Congress. This is in compliance with the mandates of international institutions and the economic fabric of the country and will deepen the debt abroad to serve the interests of a minority of brokers and corrupt.
The Popular Front has rejected the current financial law since its introduction to parliament and voted against it, revealing its disastrous repercussions, directly and indirectly, on the lives of the majority of Tunisians, especially the young and impoverished, the biggest victim of the unpopular and national choices of the Nada al-Nahda coalition. Which led large segments of the Tunisian people, especially young people to demonstrate and protest in several areas against the increases and against the policy of systematic impoverishment.
Therefore, the Popular Front:
– Renews its rejection of the current price increases, which represent an introduction to further increases in the future.
– Condemns the campaign of repression and arrests of young protesters, especially activists of the Vash Nestenu campaign against the policy of raising prices and destroying the purchasing power of the majority of the people.
– Affirms that protest and peaceful demonstration are rights guaranteed by the Constitution and that betting on repression to silence protests is doomed to failure.
– Renews the call to all political and social forces, all the Tunisian people affected by the recent government measures and other measures to mobilize and to peacefully struggle in order to stop these procedures and suspend them.