Tunisian government pushes supports to rally
In response to hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters angered by the assassination of a prominent opposition leader, the ruling party in Tunisia called on supports to stage their own pro-government demonstration.
Supporters of Tunisia's ruling moderate Islamist party were urged to mass for a pro-government rally a day after the funeral for an assassinated leftist politician drew hundreds of thousands of mourners chanting anti-government slogans into the capital's heavily policed streets.
The ruling Ennahda party called supporters to gather in central Tunis Saturday afternoon to show support for the constitutional assembly whose work on a new constitution suffered a severe setback when leftist parties withdrew their participation following the killing Feb. 6 of Chokri Belaid.
Ennahda said the demonstration would also protest "French interference" after comments earlier in the week by French Foreign Minister Manuel Valls, who denounced the killing as an attack on "the values of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution."
Tunis' main thoroughfare Avenue Bourguiba was bustling on Saturday morning, with full cafes and shops reopened after a general strike a day earlier. Police in riot armor and plainclothes officers patrolled but gone were the tear gas and running street battles of a day before.
Friday's events added to the growing turmoil in Tunisia, where the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been shaken by religious divides, political wrangling and economic struggles. It's been a perilous stretch for a country many hoped would be a model for other post-revolutionary Arab states.