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Tunisians protest as COVID surges and economy suffers

Police and protesters clashed in cities across Tunisia on Sunday

As demonstrators demanded the government step down and attacked offices of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that is the biggest in parliament.

A spike in infections has aggravated economic troubles and exposed the failings of a squabbling political class.

The protests, the biggest in Tunisia for months and the biggest to target Ennahda for years, were called by social media activists. No political parties publicly backed the rallies.

In Tunis, police used pepper spray against protesters who threw stones and shouted slogans demanding that Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi quit and parliament be dissolved.

The pandemic has hammered the economy, which was already struggling in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution that ousted long-time authoritarian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

[UPSOT HAMMEMI AHMED] As a young man in 2011, this man says, I called for jobs, freedom and national dignity.

Ten years on, he says he's still calling for the same things.

Public support for democracy has waned amid surging unemployment and crumbling state services.

The protests raise pressure on a fragile government that is enmeshed in a political struggle with President Kais Saied and trying to avert a looming fiscal crisis.

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