New Protests Shake Birthplace of Arab Spring

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Demonstrators Take to Streets After Prime Minister Fails to Uphold Deal to Step Down and Follow Road Map.

TUNISIA political opposition and union protests

Tunisia’s prime minister failed on Wednesday to meet an agreed-upon deadline to step down and embrace a political road map to write a new constitution, leading to widespread protests that the opposition vowed to continue.

Dashing the opposition’s hopes, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh backtracked on plans to announce the government’s resignation, using a national address instead to denounce his opponents and offer condolences to the families of at least six policemen killed in clashes with militants earlier in the day.

Tunisia has struggled to counter a growing extremist threat over the past year that has led to clashes and heavy casualties among the country’s security forces. Islamists have been accused of fomenting attacks against secularist politicians, civil-society groups and foreign embassies, including the American diplomatic compound in the capital, Tunis.

Opposition figures and others have said the government has been reluctant to act against radical religious groups and some say it has exaggerated the extremist threat in order to push through its political agenda and keep the opposition’s demands at bay.

The opposition’s strength was on display Wednesday as thousands of protesters occupied downtown Tunis during the workday, with even high-school students participating, the teachers union having given them the day off to join demonstrations.

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