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TUNIS: Tunisia’s lawmakers approved yesterday a new government formed to pull the country out of a deep political and economic crisis, as an impoverished vendor died after setting himself alight.
Premier-designate Ali Larayedh’s broadly based coalition of his own Islamist party Ennahda, two secular parties and independents received 139 votes, or 30 more than needed, in a parliamentary session broadcast on television.
Another 45 MPs voted against, 13 abstained and 20 were absent from the session, which ended with the singing of the national anthem and shouts of “loyal to the blood of the martyrs” of the January 2011 revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Larayedh’s success was overshadowed by the death of Adel Khadri, 27, who torched himself a day earlier and who medics said had died early yesterday as a result of severe burns.
Just before the vote, Larayedh commented on Khadri’s death, calling it a “sad incident” and saying “I hope we understood the message.” Witnesses quoted Khadri as shouting: “This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment,” before setting himself on fire in Tunis.
Officials said Khadri, from a very poor family in the northwestern locality of Jendoubam, had arrived in the capital a few months ago to look for work.
The number of people committing suicide or attempting to has multiplied since young street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment. His self-immolation in the town of Sidi Bouzid ignited a mass uprising that ousted Ben Ali the following month and touched off the Arab Spring uprisings.
Economic and social difficulties were the key factors that brought down Ben Ali’s regime and two years since he fled to Saudi Arabia, unemployment and poverty still plague the North African country. The economy was badly affected by the revolution, which paralysed the strategic tourism sector, although the country is out of recession and posted 3.6 percent growth in 2012.