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Large scale protests erupt in Tunisia over austerity measures

12 January 2018

Five people were wounded and brought to a hospital, TAP said.

Tunisia deployed more than 2,000 troops countrywide to protect "sovereign institutions", Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The budget, which took effect on January 1, hiked fuel prices and introduced new tax measures related to the purchase of housing.

The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition since a 2011 revolt that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings, but seven years after the revolution, tensions over economic grievances are high.

Police and military forces have been deployed in several cities to prevent demonstrations turning violent.

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No one was hurt but the school suffered some light damage in the attack late on Tuesday during a violent protest against austerity measures in the tourist resort island of Djerba, the head of the Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi, told Reuters.

The protests began peacefully last week, but escalated on Monday evening.

Three local leaders of the Popular Front, the main opposition bloc, were detained in Gafsa for allegedly setting fire to a government building, a judicial source said.

"By choosing to increase taxes across the board, the authorities opted for the only available choice they had, due to the UGTT's strenuous opposition to spending cuts", said Eurasia Group senior analyst Riccardo Fabiani. "The state will remain steadfast", warned Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, while his interior ministry has issued similar threats of a crackdown.

An interior ministry spokesman said at least 44 people had been arrested, including 16 in Kasserine and 18 in working-class areas near Tunis.

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Tunisians have started to express frustration over austerity measures expected to further increase prices in a struggling economy.

Last year, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund agreed a four-year loan programme worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, tied to economic reforms. The opposition bloc accused the government of presiding over a deterioration in Tunisia's society, economy and politics.

Tunisia is often seen as having had a relatively smooth transition since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Correction: 12/01/2018: A previous version of this article misstated the number of people who have been killed in this year's protest.

This policy, along with the cooperation of the Islamic Ennahdha [Renaissance] Party, a partner in the coalition, has made Tunisia the only success story of the "Arab Spring", and it appears that despite the difficulties it will continue to show stability despite the internal protest.

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Large scale protests erupt in Tunisia over austerity measures