TUNIS, Tunisia, (AP) – Tunisian police fired tear gas and protesters smashed police cars as tensions resumed Monday in the capital of a country struggling to stabilize itself after the president was overthrown.
Scores of protesters from Tunisian provinces gathered in front of the prime minister’s office Monday morning, shouting anti-government slogans and breaking windows of cars nearby. Police fired tear gas on the crowd, which included people who had defied a nationwide curfew and staged a sleep-in overnight.
Schools were set to reopen Monday after protracted closure amid the unrest, but teachers went on strike.
The protesters are angry that holdovers from former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime hold leading posts in the interim government in place since last week. Ben Ali fled the country Jan. 14 after 23 years in power, pushed out by weeks of deadly protests driven by anger over joblessness, corruption and repression.
Noisy street demonstrations have continued since Ben Ali’s departure, but most have been peaceful.
State TV also reported Monday that a former Ben Ali political adviser who had been sought by police, Abdelwaheb Abdallah, has been located and placed under house arrest.
Police have cracked down on key allies of the ousted president, placing two high-ranking officials under house arrest and detaining the head of a well-known private TV station for allegedly trying to slow down the country’s nascent steps toward democracy.
Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” sparked scattered protests and civil disobedience across the Middle East and North Africa. Many observers were looking to see if Tunisians can complete their fervent push for democracy.
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who took that post in 1999 under Ben Ali and has kept it through the upheaval, has vowed to quit politics after upcoming elections. But he has insisted that he needs to stay on to shepherd Tunisia through a transition to democracy. Many other Cabinet members are also Ben Ali-era holdovers.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Ghannouchi and said the U.S. is encouraged by indications the interim government is trying to be inclusive and ensure that the many segments of Tunisian society will have a voice.