Originally published by RT.com.
Tunisia’s president has dismissed the government and froze parliament, amid unrest over the “dysfunctional” political system and crumbling healthcare. His opponents decried the move as a “coup” and called for street protests.
Following an emergency meeting at his palace on Sunday night, President Kais Saied announced his decision to sack prime minister Hichem Mechichi and suspend parliament, promising to ‘save’ the country with the help of a new PM.
“We have taken these decisions… until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state,” Saied said in a televised address.
WATCH: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied announced that he was freezing parliament, suspending the immunity of all MPs, dismissing Prime Minister Hicham Mechichi and taking charge of the executive power pic.twitter.com/95rRxMzOvK
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) July 26, 2021
Hundreds of people celebrated the drastic move, cheering, honking and singing, as military vehicles surrounded the parliament building and the state television HQ, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media.
The parliament speaker and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired ‘moderate’ Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, has defied the order but was blocked from entering the parliament. Ghannouchi denounced Saied’s move as “a coup against the revolution and constitution,” in a phone call to Reuters, and called for street protests in a video message to supporters.
We consider the institutions still standing, and the supporters of the Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution.
Após protestos contra a gestão do governo na pandemia e pela situação econômica, o presidente da Tunísia, Kais Saied, deu um autogolpe de Estado e anunciou a suspensão do parlamento e a demissão do primeiro-ministro Hicham Mechichi. Assim ele assume o comando total do país. pic.twitter.com/pA78Y52mea
— Renato Souza (@reporterenato) July 25, 2021
Saied, however, warned his opponents against unleashing street violence, saying that the military won’t hesitate to use guns to quell the unrest if it turns deadly.
I warn any who think of resorting to weapons… and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.
Under the constitution, Tunisian president is only directly responsible for military affairs and foreign relations, but last week he put the army in charge of the Covid-19 pandemic response – after PM Mechichi sacked the health minister, blaming him for the collapse of the country’s healthcare system.
Praised as the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia adopted a new constitution in 2014, but it still has no constitutional court to settle disputes, and consistently fails to form a stable government. President Saied and the parliament were both elected by popular votes in 2019, while Mechichi took office last year. Ghannouchi’s Ennahda, banned before the revolution, has since become the dominant force in parliament, locked in a constant political rivalry with the president and the PM.
Angered by the ‘dysfunctional’ political system, thousands of protesters, not openly backed by any of the major political parties, once again rallied in Tunis and other cities on Sunday. Some of the protest erupted in clashes, while the mob tried to storm the Ennahda party offices, forcing police to deploy tear gas – and apparently prompting Saied to take his radical step.
TUNISIA: Crowds take to streets in Tunis tonight to celebrate President decision of dismissing Gov. , firing PM & freezing parliament.Major political upheaval. Islamist Opposition calling it a “coup”, reports on airport & borders closures: pic.twitter.com/HSdsf1tKXU
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) July 25, 2021