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President Ben Ali deposed his predecessor in 1987, promising democratic reforms. Tunisia remained a police state under his rule, which lasted for 23 years. Despite respectable levels of economic growth, corruption and economic exclusion were severe problems, and there was no democratic opening. The self-immolation of a fruit and vegetable seller in December 2010 started a wave of protests which led to the deposition of the president in January 2011, and the protests in Tunisia inspired similar uprisings in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

Protesters were not satisfied with the interim government, in which Mohammed Ghannouchi remained prime minister, although some ministers were taken from the opposition. Further clashes between protesters and the security forces resulted in deaths of at least five in February, leading Mohammed Ghannouchi to resign, to be replaced by Beji Caid-Essebsi, another former minister from the Ben Ali government. Elections will now be held on 23 October 2011. Tunisia has made the most progress towards democracy of any of the 'Arab srping' countries.


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