By Adil Essabiti
TUNIS (AA) - The Tunisian government adopted a raft of controversial austerity measures late last year, triggering a sudden rise in local commodity prices.
The bout of inflation prompted hundreds of Tunisians to hit the streets in protest, with demonstrations occasionally turning violent.
Earlier this week, army troops were deployed with the stated aim of securing Tunisia’s “sovereign institutions”.
The cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia enjoyed an uptick in democracy after the 2011 revolution. Despite the obvious political gains, however, Tunisians’ economic expectations have gone largely unmet.
In line with demands articulated by the International Monetary Fund, the government last October announced its planned 2018 budget, which included several unpopular austerity measures, including tax hikes.
On Monday, anti-austerity demonstrations erupted in several parts of the country, escalating further after a protester was killed.
Following a series of violent incidents, including attacks on government buildings, the Tunisian Defense Ministry announced the deployment of some 2,000 soldiers.
The following is a timeline of significant developments both before and during the ongoing demonstrations:
Dec. 8, 2017: Tunisia’s parliament approves Article 39 of a fiscal law calling for an increase in the country’s value-added tax.
Dec. 9, 2017: Parliament approves a 2018 budget that includes tax increases on telecommunication services, cosmetic products and fuel. The move comes within the framework of demands made by the IMF, which pledges to loan the country $2.8 billion over four years.
Dec. 16, 2017: The Afaq Tunis Party, a partner in the country’s governing coalition, announces its decision to withdraw from the government, saying the budget approved by parliament “lacks the social and economic vision to meet the needs of the people”.
Jan. 3, 2018: The Popular Front, a coalition of leftist parties, calls for "peaceful protests" against the austerity measures and mounting inflation.
Jan. 4, 2018: The Ennahda movement, another coalition partner, criticizes the protest calls, saying they are intended to "sow chaos".
Jan. 6, 2018: Afaq Tunis withdraws from the 2016 Carthage Declaration, which laid out the priorities of Tunisia’s coalition government.
Jan. 8, 2018: As commodity prices rise further, demonstrations are held in several parts of the country to protest steadily mounting costs of living.
A protester is killed in the town of Tebourba west of Tunis. The Interior Ministry denies reports that the demonstrator was killed by security forces.
Jan. 9, 2018: Protests spread to the cities of Kairouan, Sousse, Gafsa and Tunis, along with other parts of the country. Public and private property is attacked amid increasingly frequent reports of of violence.
The army deploys over 2,000 soldiers to secure vital state institutions.
Jan. 10, 2018: Protests continue in several provinces as Prime Minister Yusuf al-Shahid accuses elements of the opposition -- especially the Popular Front -- of inciting “riots”.
Al-Shadid points out that the Popular Front had voted in favor of the tax increases before urging the public to hit the streets.
Jan. 11, 2018: Demonstrations spread to 14 cities throughout the country as the army deploys more troops to protect state institutions.
The Popular Front calls on the government to set up an independent commission tasked with "identifying and prosecuting” anyone found to have incited violence.
Jan. 12, 2018: The Interior Ministry announces that over 700 people had been detained for “rioting” since the demonstrations began on Jan. 8.