26th July, 2021
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied in a sudden move on Sunday dismissed the Prime Minister and the government and froze parliament.
Crowds demonstrated in support of the moves, but observers said they may dramatically escalate the country’s political crisis.
Saied’s political opponents called the executive decisions a coup.
On Sunday night, soldiers surrounded the parliament to stop the parliament from convening.
According to Mosaique FM, soldiers were deployed to the area in front of the parliament building as well as that of Tunisian state television in Tunis after Saied’s announcement
President Kais Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, in the biggest challenge yet to the democratic system Tunisia introduced in a 2011 revolution.
Crowds of people quickly flooded the capital and other cities, cheering and honking car horns in scenes that recalled the revolution, which triggered the Arab Spring protests that convulsed the Middle East.
However, the extent of support for Saied’s moves against a fragile government and divided parliament was not clear and he warned against any violent response.
“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons… and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he said in a statement carried on television.
Years of paralysis, corruption, declining state services and growing unemployment had already soured many Tunisians on their political system before the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the economy last year and coronavirus infection rates shot up this summer.
Protests, called by social media activists but not backed by any of the big political parties, took place on Sunday with much of the anger focused on the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the biggest in parliament.
Ennahda, banned before the revolution, has been the most consistently successful party since 2011 and a member of successive coalition governments.
Its leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is also parliament speaker, immediately labelled Saied’s decision “a coup against the revolution and constitution” in a phone call to Reuters.
“We consider the institutions still standing, and the supporters of the Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” he added, raising the prospect of confrontations between supporters of Ennahda and Saied.
The leader of another party, Karama, and former President Moncef Marzouki both joined Ennahda in calling Saied’s move a coup.