After suspending parliament and toppling the country’s prime minister, the Tunisian government has placed military troops in the streets to contain protests and has imposed a curfew in some towns.
President Kais Saied was charged with a coup on Sunday (25) after suspending the legislature for 30 days, ousting Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and assuming full power in the executive – Tunisia operates in a mixed parliamentary system where the president is the only diplomatic president. and military functions, and the country is ruled by the Prime Minister.
Since Sunday evening, demonstrators have taken to the streets despite the imposed curfew and there has been a clash between supporters and opponents of Saied outside Parliament, with people injured after being hit by stones and bottles. Pro-Saied protesters fired fireworks and marched through the capital Tunis.
The army surrounded the seat of the Presidency (the Kasbah), and even prevented the entry of officials. Al-Jazeera TV channel said on Monday (26) that police broke into its office in the nation’s capital and kicked out all employees.
It is the most serious political crisis for a decade in the country of origin of the Arab Spring, a series of demonstrations which rocked North Africa and the Middle East from the end of 2010. Tunisia is considered the most successful example of these revolutions. The protesters then succeeded in overthrowing dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and changing the country’s political system, with a new constitution in 2014 that established the division of powers between the president, prime minister and parliament.
Now in charge of the Executive, he has already started to change the government. On Monday, he announced that he would change the justice and defense ministers and appointed the director general of the presidential security unit, Khaled Yahyaoui, supervisor of the interior ministry.
On his Facebook page, Ennahda, the Islamic-oriented party that runs Parliament, wrote that “what Kais Saied is doing is a coup against the revolution and the Constitution, and the members Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution “.
The leader of Ennahdha and president of the legislature, Rashed Ghannouchi, tried to access the seat of the parliament with other deputies and was prevented from doing so by the army, according to a video posted by the party on the social network.
“The army must protect the country,” Ghannouchi told soldiers in the video. “Soldiers, officers, we ask you to stand alongside the people,” he added. “We are soldiers, we follow orders. They asked us to close Parliament,” replied one of the soldiers.
The vice-president of the Assembly, Samira Chaouachi, also called on the military to open the doors. “We want to enter Parliament,” he shouted. “We are the protectors of the Constitution. One of the soldiers replied, “We are the protectors of the nation.
In a statement released by Ennahdha, Ghannouchi said Saied was trying to change the country’s political regime, “transforming a parliamentary democratic regime into a presidential, individual and authoritarian regime.”
Besides Ennahdha, the Islamo-nationalist movement Karama also condemned Saied’s decision. The Democratic Current, the social democratic party that backs Saied, also rejected the act, but attributed the problem to “popular tensions and the social, economic and health crisis and the lack of horizons of the ruling coalition. by Ennahdha “.
The suspension of parliament came after thousands of Tunisians protested against the country’s political class on Sunday (25), in particular against Ennahdha, the majority force in parliament and the opposition to the president.
Among the cries heard in the demonstrations, marked by criticism of Prime Minister Mechichi, the demonstrators shouted “Let’s change the regime” and “The people want the dissolution of Parliament”.
Ghannouchi and Saied are in a six-month conflict that has crippled the government amid the outbreak of Covid-19 contagion that has hit the country since early July.
With nearly 18,000 deaths from the coronavirus, Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, has one of the worst death rates in the world. The protests reflect the current handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the continued economic crises the country has suffered since the Arab Spring.
The suspension of parliament drew reactions from other countries. The Turkish government, close to the Ennahdha movement, called for the restoration of “democratic legitimacy in the country”.
Within the European Union, a spokesperson for the European Commission urged Turkish politicians to respect the Constitution and the rule of law, and to “remain calm and refrain from resorting to violence, to preserve the stability of the country “. Germany called for “respect for civil liberties, one of the most important results of the Tunisian revolution” of 2011.