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A turning tide in Tunisia?

Ben Allen | 17:05 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011


Update: All afternoon we have been hearing of new developments in Tunisia. President Ben Ali sacked the government before declaring a state of emergency in his country, which says that gatherings of more than three people are banned.

The latest reports from Al-Jazeera say that President Ben Ali has left Tunisia and the army has taken over and the Prime Minister is now in control.

The situation in Tunisia is changing rapidly. For the latest updates, follow the BBC's live event page.

President Ben Ali has been President of Tunisia for almost 25 years; he won his fifth term with ninety per cent of the vote. Opposition groups said the vote was unfair, human rights activists claim his government jails opponents and clamps down on free speech.

Protestors fed up with the situation and angry at the lack of opportunities have taken to the streets. The government reacted with lethal force leaving 23 dead.

However, despite all this, last night the President appeared to make a dramatic u-turn. In a speech to the nation Mr Ben Ali expressed “deep and massive regret” and went on to announce political change.

Only this week the President called the protestors “terrorists” but now claims he was misled by advisors and troops have been ordered to only fire in self-defence. Measures to scrap censorship and slash food prices were also revealed.

Understandably the news hit the headlines in the country. "I have understood you," read the front-page of the Alchourouk daily, while Le Temps wrote: "After the blood and desolation, there is new hope." Opposition groups are caution but have welcomed the pledges.

Today they were further indications of political change, the foreign minister said it would be possible to form a national unity government involving the opposition.

Protests are still due to take place today, with demonstrators calling for the President to leave office immediately. Is this strong leadership or a man who’s been forced into change? Are you convinced by the reforms?

Has the President been backed into a corner or is he simply admitting he got it wrong? Isn’t that the sign of a good leader – the ability to listen to the people? Would you like to see your leader back down more? or is it a sign of weakness?

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