Tunisian town calm following curfew

No violent incidents reported in Sidi Bouzid, after post-poll protests had earlier erupted in birthplace of revolution.

    Tensions remained high late on Friday despite the curfew in Sidi Bouzid [AFP]

    Calm has returned to the town of Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, after an overnight curfew was imposed because of violent post-election protests, police said.

    "There were no incidents during the night," a police official told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

    Tension had remained high late on Friday despite the curfew, as disgruntled groups threatened further damage and the army boosted patrols in the town, an AFP correspondent said.

    The curfew - in effect from 7:00pm on Friday until 5:00am on Saturday - was imposed after hundreds of people marched on the Sidi Bouzid headquarters of the Ennahdha party on Thursday.

    The crowd burned tyres and pelted security forces with stones following the announcement that Ennahdha had won last Sunday's national elections.

    On Saturday, the town's weekly market was open, and residents went about normal activities as teams worked to clean and repair public buildings vandalised during the unrest there.

    A few tanks remained stationed by the police headquarters and town hall, however, and schools remained closed.

    In a statement on Saturday, Ennahdha's Sidi Bouzid branch said it respected the right for people to peacefully protest, but it also condemned "all forms of violence and vandalism".

    "We believe the enemies of the revolution have seized the opportunity to drag the region into a wave of violence, after elections which the world has described as free and fair," the statement added.

    'Preserving public good'

    Late on Friday, Hechmi Haamadi, a businessman whose Popular Petition won in Sidi Bouzid, appealed to the town's residents to halt the protests, echoing an appeal by Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahdha.

    "We call for calm among the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the revolution which must be at the forefront of preserving the public good," Ghannouchi had said.

    It was in Sidi Bouzid that Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old fruit-seller, set himself on fire on December 17 last year to protest against abuses under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's, the former president, 23-year regime.

    He died days later, but Bouazizi's desperate act sparked the popular revolt that toppled Ben Ali less than a month later and ignited region-wide uprisings that have since also ousted strongmen in Cairo and Tripoli.

    On Friday, officials from Ennahdha announced they intended to form a coalition government within the next 10 days.

    Party secretary-general Hamadi Jbeli said that Ennahdha had begun talks with other parties on forming a coalition government. He said the priority in the talks would be reviving the country's economy.

    "We are going to speed up to build the new government ... It will take between a week and 10 days," Jbeli, likely to be prime minister in the new cabinet, said.

    Ghannouchi said his party would honour an undertaking to finish writing a new constitution within one year, saying: "This government will look to establish common grounds through providing a government plan proposal for a year".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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