Tunisia’s interim regime followed through on its pledge to replace the cabinet of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali Jan. 28, sacking the ministers of defense, interior and exterior. The changes were announced by Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi—himself a target of resignation demands by protesters who continue to take to the streets.
Ben Ali signed a decree handing Ghannouchi interim presidential powers before flying out of Tunis to refuge in Saudi Arabia in Jan. 14. But his nomination under article 56 of the constitution had still left open the door to Ben Ali’s return. On Jan. 15, Tunisia’s Constitutional Council invoked article 57 of the constitution, declaring a “definitive” vacancy of the presidency. Parliament speaker Foued Mebezza was named a interim president. However, Ghannouchi still appears to be acting as de facto executive. (Bloomberg, Jan. 28; AFP, Jan. 15)
Despite the cabinet change, protests continued in the capital Jan. 28. Security forces chased groups of demonstrators through central Tunis and fired tear gas, after dispersing hundreds of demonstrators holding a 24-hour sit-in outside government offices. The march saw the first significant Islamist presence in the Tunisian protest movement, with some carrying placards reading: “We want freedom for the hijab, the niqab and the beard.” (MSNBC, Jan. 28)