Tunisians protest against poverty, high prices and food shortages

Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Sunday night in the capital against poverty, high prices, and the shortage of some foodstuff, escalating pressure on the government of President Kais Saied, as the country suffers an economic and political crisis.

Tunisia is struggling to revive its public finances as discontent grows over inflation running at nearly 9% and a shortage of many food items in stores because the country cannot afford to pay for some imports.

The North African nation is also in the midst of a severe political crisis since Saied seized control of the executive power last year and dissolved parliament in a move his opponents called a coup.

In the poor Douar Hicher district in the capital, some protesters lifted loaves of bread in the air. Other chanted, “Where is Kais Saied?”. Angry youths burned tires.

In the Mornag suburb, young men blocked roads, protesting the suicide of a young man who his family says hanged himself, after municipal police harassed him and seized a weighing machine when he was selling fruit in the street without permission.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters in Mornag. Protesters raised slogans against the police and threw stones.

In Douar Hicher, protesters chanted “Jobs, freedom and national dignity,” and “We can’t support crazy price hikes”, “Where is sugar?”.

Food shortages are worsening in Tunisia with empty shelves in supermarkets and bakeries, adding to popular discontent at high prices of many Tunisians who spend hours searching for sugar, milk, butter, cooking oil and rice.

Videos on social media showed on Sunday dozens of customers scrambling to win a kilogram of sugar in market.

Tunisia, which is suffering its worst financial crisis, is seeking to secure an International Monetary Fund loan to save public finances from collapse.

The government raised this month the price of cooking gas cylinders by 14% for the first time in 12 years. It also raised fuel prices for the fourth time this year as part of a plan to reduce energy subsidies, a policy change sought by the IMF.