Tunisias Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi gestures during a news conference in Tunis Tunisias prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi at a press conference on February 27, when he announced his resignation over state television. Photograph: Ho/REUTERS As the worlds spotlight remains trained on the carnage in Libya, tensions are mounting in nearby Tunisia, where the first of this years Arab dictator-dominoes fell. Mohamed Ghannouchi, a holdover from the Ben Ali regime that collapsed in January, resigned as prime minister on Sunday after three days of huge street protests in which three people were killed, apparently by police. Ghannouchis interim government was under heavy pressure to move faster towards democratic reform, and his departure may not end the protests, unless the entire cabinet changes course or resigns. It has released political prisoners and granted a general amnesty, but protesters want fundamental guarantees of human rights and a new constitution. Before the last few days of marches outside the hated interior ministry, the epicentre of the January protests, hundreds of young people had occupied the courtyard outside Ghannouchis office last week for an indefinite sit-in. Hypocrite minister was written in Arabic on the name plate in such a faithful copy of the size and style of the original words prime minister that the title looked official. On the opposite side of the courtyard the finance ministry sported a democracy wall, where demonstrators drew slogans or glued lists of political demands. The rising temperature has not escaped the United States attention. Rightwing senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain were here a week ago, and last Thursday the state departments top Middle East official, William Burns, held talks with Ghannouchi, who served in the same job for more than 10 years under Ben Ali. Although all three men hailed the Tunisian revolution, there is little doubt they want to keep it as far as possible in check. After Ben Ali fled, Ghannouchis government was given two months to implement reforms. With the deadline of 15 March nearing, two broad approaches have emerged. The conservative one, backed by the old political and business elite and most of the print media, is to extend the interim governments term until presidential elections in July. France and the US are thought to be pressing for the formation of a new centre party that will absorb leading members of the old ruling party, the RCD, and provide a good candidate for the presidency. The secular left and the Islamists want deeper change. Along with the main trade union federation, they are displaying remarkable unity and recently formed a National Council for the Defence of the Revolution (NCDR). Far more people were driven into exile or imprisoned for long terms under the old regime than occurred under Hosni Mubaraks rule in Egypt. Welcome parties still turn up at Tunis airport almost every day to greet returning friends and heroes. After all their personal sacrifices, they are determined not to be cheated into accepting a system that amounts to a sanitised version of Ben Alis rule, with only a mild softening of the old top-down political control and the same economic inequalities between the capital city and the provinces that sparked the January uprising. They want power to be handed, on or before 15 March, to a caretaker team of independent technocrats. They also want the NCDR to be given official status and the right to monitor the new government pending elections. These elections should be for a constituent assembly that will work out a constitution that enshrines all the basic civic freedoms as well as mechanisms to prevent or punish torture in prisons and police stations. After suffering under a presidential dictatorship and de facto one-party rule, most leftists and Islamists are calling for a parliamentary system, says Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer who heads the Association against Torture in Tunisia. Her husband, Hamma Hammami, leads the Tunisian Workers Communist party and was only released from prison when Ben Ali was toppled. Guardian