After intense violence that surged in Tunis since nightfall on Saturday, a deceptive calm descended on the Tunisian capital on Sunday amid attempts by politicians to cobble together a national unity government.
But with the collapse on Friday of the 23–year-old Tunisian dictatorship, following President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's hasty exit to Saudi Arabia, the focus of attention has been on the likely return of violence brought about by possible clashes between the police, loyal to the departed dictator and the military, widely viewed as neutral and popular, say analysts.
It was evident that regime symbols were the focus of Saturday's rioting. In the Tunis neighbourhood of Cite Habib, the villa belonging to nephew of Mr. Ben Alis's second wife, Leila Trablesi was torched.
Businesses owned by the Ben Ali family were also targeted. The Tunis branch of Zeitouna bank founded by Mr. Ben Ali's son-in-law was burnt down. The dealership showrooms owned by Mr. Ben Ali's son-in-law, Mohamed Sakher El Materi, of Kia, Fiat and Porsche vehicles were also torched. AFP reported on Sunday that Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of Mr. Ben Ali's wife, who had been stabbed on Saturday, has died in a Tunis military hospital where he was undergoing treatment. Police stations had also been set on fire — apparently a reflection of public anger against the police, which has been widely held responsible for the nearly 60 deaths which resulted during the course of the month long uprising.
Meanwhile, there have been a series of jail incidents over the week-end. In the coastal city of Monatsir scores of prisoners who had set ablaze a prison, hoping that they would be freed by the authorities were killed in the fire. More than a thousand escaped from another jail, south of Tunis.
Eyewitnesses have reported that squads of plainclothes men, widely suspected as regime loyalists, had been driving at top speed in the capital, randomly shooting at buildings and people. But on Sunday, tanks had been positioned around the capital and the Army, which had been deployed in strength, was guarding government buildings.
Amid acute uncertainty, senior politicians have begun an exercise to form a national unity government, pending fresh elections within 60 days. Fouad Mebezaa, Speaker of Parliament, who was elevated as interim President on Saturday has promised to form the new government which would include the opposition.
The larger fall-out of the Tunisian uprising has been the subject of much comment in the region. In comments posted over the Al Jazeera website, West Asia commentator Lamis Andoni said: “It [Tunisia's developments] is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.” However, in neighbouring Libya, President Muammar Qadhafi criticised the people for being too hasty in seeking Mr. Ben Ali's exit.