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Middle East

Tunisia leader: Protests lead to collective suicide

Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki speaks during a meeting in Tunis December 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president warned Friday that the North African country’s post-revolution economic and social fabric was still fragile, and that strikes and protests could lead to “collective suicide.”

Tunisia’s new government, the first freely elected since the popular uprising that toppled dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January, is under pressure to boost the ailing economy and reverse joblessness.

President Moncef Marzouki told a group of Tunisian business leaders labor strikers risked bringing about more social and economic turmoil.

“Unless the economic machine gets working soon, the country is heading straight for collective suicide,” he added. “I ask [strikers] not to be responsible for such a catastrophe and not to sink the boat that is carrying us all.”

Further social upheaval could plunge the country into anarchy, he warned.

Tunisia’s unemployment is running at 20 percent, while economic growth is expected to be a sluggish 0.5 percent for 2011.

Some investors have already quit because of strikes or protests. Japanese group Yazaki, a major maker of automotive wiring, shut down Tuesday one of its factories in Tunisia.

Premier Hamadi Jebali announced his new Cabinet Thursday, allotting key ministerial posts to members of his moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

The creation of a new government is of great importance in Tunisia following the popular revolt against Ben Ali that began in December 2010.

The protests triggered what became known as the Arab Spring – uprisings across the region that also led to the overthrow of veteran dictators in Libya and Egypt.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 24, 2011, on page 9.

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