Tunisian government hoping days of protests are subsiding

Tunisian security forces track down protesters in the Ettadhamen

Tunisian security forces track down protesters in the Ettadhamen Credit AFP

The source, speaking to Reuters, did not provide more details, but it comes as Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi met with political parties, unions and employers to discuss ways of overcoming the unrest triggered by austerity measures aimed at cutting a budget deficit.

Dozens of Tunisians demonstrated on Friday outside the government's provincial headquarters in Tunis to demand the annulment of controversial legislation.

A new anti-austerity youth movement - named Fech Nestannow, which translates as "What are we waiting for?" - has called for nationwide protests Friday, including a large one in Tunis.

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Addressing protesters, campaign coordinator Wael Nawar vowed to organize a mass sit-in outside the parliament building in Tunis if the unpopular law was not swiftly revoked. Tunisian authorities say the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests to sweep the country since Monday has risen to almost 800.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Khlifa Chibani said on Friday on Mosaique FM radio that 778 people have been arrested nationwide in the unrest, including 16 religious extremists.

But public anger has been building since January 1, when the government raised the price of petrol and other items and hiked social security contributions and taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation. A man in his 40s died in disputed circumstances during unrest in the northern town of Tebourba on on Monday night. The Interior Ministry said that the 43-year old male was not killed due to police violence, but an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death. "What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes".

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Calm returned to the country on Thursday night and there was "no attack against public or private property" in the night of Friday to Saturday, Chibani said.

Its democracy remains for the most part intact and a secular party now leads the government in coalition with a moderate Islamist group.

But Tunisia has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems. Many people face unemployment, with official figures put the unemployment rate at around 15 percent.

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