Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has warned that no one would be spared in the government’s massive anti-corruption fight.
“We aim to tear down the systems of corruption,” Chahed said Sunday, vowing that in coordination with Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi “no one will be protected in this war against corruption.”
The premier rejected allegations that the government launched a crackdown in response to increasing protests south of the country.
“I hear some people say this is just a campaign, but it’s not — it is state policy… Corruption in our country is widespread,” Chahed said, adding, “The struggle against corruption will be a long-term war, a sustained policy.”
Tunisia arrested a dozen notable figures last month on suspicion of involvement in corruption. Those arrested included businessmen, suspected smugglers and even a former security official and Chahed said some of them were accused of “incitement and alleged financing of the protest movement” in the south.
“It is a system that can be seen everywhere… Even social protests are exploited by this system (of corruption), and terrorists also benefit from it,” he said.
Chahed also responded to criticism that the government was using a state of emergency to make the arrests, saying “exceptional circumstances” required “exceptional measures.” He said more arrests are planned and people would “get used” to the crackdown as it has been the case during anti-terrorism fight in Tunisia.
The state of emergency was imposed in Tunisia three years ago, when Daesh, a Takfiri group mainly based in the Middle East, killed tens of foreign tourists who were visiting a beach north of the country.
Tunisia still grapples with economic uncertainty six years after popular protests led to the ouster of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.