Tunisia marks its Arab Spring revolution amid tensions
By Kaouther Larbi, AFPTUNIS--Tunisians Monday marked two years since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a climate of uncertainty marked by social tension, jihadist threats and a political impasse, with rival factions taking to the streets of the capital.
January 15, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and parliamentary speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar saluted the national flag at an early-morning ceremony in Tunis to mark the occasion.
The three men, representing the ruling coalition headed by the Islamist party Ennahda, gathered at the Kasbah, next to the government's headquarters, for the modest ceremony that was attended by the leaders of the main political parties.
Shortly afterwards, Jebali, the secretary general of Tunsia's main labour union, Hocine Abassi, and Wided Bouchamaoui, representing Tunisian employers, signed a “social pact” at the National Constituent Assembly, or interim parliament.
With unemployment considered a driving factor behind the revolution, and with Tunisia still rocked by repeated protests over poor living conditions, some of them deadly, the signing of the accord was loaded with symbolic importance.
In the city centre, more than a thousand activists from across the political spectrum marched in separate groups down Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the epicenter of the mass uprising that toppled Ben Ali on Jan. 14, 2011 and touched off the Arab Spring.
Ennahda supporters chanted in response to anti-government slogans, while a police cordon separated hundreds of Islamist protesters from their secular rivals near the interior ministry.