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Tunisia's Coalition Government Is In Turmoil


Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Tear gas didn't stop these key protestors, who stayed on this key thoroughfare in central Tunis after most people fled. They shouted and handed out leaflets printed with the names of regime members who are now in the new government.

NAJEED: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Many more Tunisians, however, feel it's too risky to give the ruling party another chance.


SARHADDI NELSON: Like Mahtou Mosen(ph), a physics teacher and counselor.

MAHTOU MOSEN: We want the coalition that's in place fully, the will of the people, democracy, freedom and the basic need of the population: food, water, clean air, jobs and overall, national dignity. We are not banana's republic.


SARHADDI NELSON: University lecturer Fahti Halel(ph) says he and others here worry corruption, in particular, is likely to be covered up.

FAHTI HALEL: They are asking for a radical change that gets away from the past, because corruption is deeply entrenched, you know, in all the apparatus of the state.

SARHADDI NELSON: Lawyer Mohammed Abbou, a dissident who spent two-and-a-half years in jail under the former regime, represents a Tunisian businessman who says he was forced to pay $150,000 to one of the former first lady's brothers in 2008.

MOHAMMED ABBOU: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Abbou says the businessman was told he needed to pay the bribe in order to spring his Hong Kong shipment from Tunisian Customs. His client filed a complaint, but instead, the police arrested him outside his lawyer's office. The case has gone nowhere, Abbou adds.

ABBOU: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: He fears that isn't likely to change, given who the new government has been assigning to tackle corruption. Abbou says a prosecutor who blocked cases against the ruling family during the regime has now been assigned as a watchdog. That prosecutor has been asked by the new government to investigate the ousted president's head of security. He expressed similar doubts about a commission announced this week by the prime minister to investigate corruption.

ABBOU: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Tunis.

MONTAGNE: And just this morning, Switzerland announced it is freezing former President Ben Ali's assets to help in any corruption case that may be brought against him. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.