TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia’s interior minister on Sunday suspended all activities of the country’s former ruling party amid the most serious protests since the country’s autocratic president fled into exile less than a month ago.
Fahrat Rajhi suspended all meetings of the Democratic Constitutional Rally, known as the RCD, and ordered all party offices or meeting places it owns closed – ahead of a demand to dissolve the party, a ministry statement said.
The RCD embodied the policies of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled into exile Jan. 14 after a month of nationwide anti-government protests. The party became a key instrument by which Ben Ali maintained power, and by which corruption spread. Should the RCD be dissolved, it would be among the most sweeping moves since Ben Ali’s departure.
The official TAP news agency, which carried the statement, said the measure was taken because of the “extreme urgency” of the situation, a reference to deadly weekend protests around Tunisia, and to “preserve the higher interests of the nation.”
The announcement came hours after crowds in the northwestern city of Kef pillaged documents and equipment from a police station, then set it on fire, a day after police shot dead at least two demonstrators. It was the worst violence in Tunisia since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, ending 23 years in power.
Protests have also erupted in other corners of the North African country, which is being run by a caretaker government before presidential elections to be held in six to seven months.
Authorities have been removing traces of the Ben Ali regime, notably eliminating figures connected with the former ruling party – but not fast enough for many citizens. Protests were held in several towns to protest the nomination of new governors belonging to the RCD.
The party’s activities were not just limited to politics. Under Ben Ali’s reign, the party had tentacles in all aspects of Tunisian life.
There are widespread fears that Ben Ali loyalists within the party are seeding anarchy to upset what Tunisians call their “people’s revolution.”
Among other distrusted entities is the police force, which instilled fear as it carried out the repressive policies of Ben Ali. The move by the interior minister, ultimately in charge of police, could amount to a double gesture to shore up the “people’s revolution” in the eyes of many Tunisians.