The North African country has witnessed a series of protests against decisions made by the president to suspend the parliament.
Anti-government protests have erupted in Tunis following President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend the parliament and dismiss the country’s prime minister, Hichem Mechichi.
After an emergency meeting with armed forces and security services, Saied announced he would be assuming executive power alongside a new prime minister following violent unrest in the North African country over the government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the dwindling economy.
On Sunday, thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to express frustration at the deterioration of the country’s health and economy. The crowds, which mainly comprised of youth, demanded the termination of parliament and early elections.
Ennahda leader and Ghannouchi’s political advisor Riad al-Shu’aibi told Al-Araby al-Jadeed “what happened is a coup against the constitution and state institutions, seizing powers that the constitution does not grant to (President Kais) Saeid, including suspending parliament and lifting immunity from MPs”, noting that assuming broad executive powers “reminds us of the power grab by dictatorships following coups”.
“It seems that what happened today, including the attack (by protesters) on Ennahda offices was planned, to create unrest to justify the decisions taken by the president”, he added.
Many took to Twitter to comment on the unrest in Tunis, stating that Saied had carried out a coup after the Tunisian president threatened to fight against anyone deemed to be resisting, attacking the state or “its symbols.”
Prominent Qatari journalist Jaber Al Harmi wrote “Tunisian President Kais Saied carries out a coup against the democracy that brought him to power, and announced his assumption of executive power, freezing the work of parliament, and dismissing the prime minister.”
Saied’s assumption of executive power poses a challenge to the the Tunisian constitution of 2014 that divides power between the president, prime minister and the parliament.
Popular Twitter user Nasser Alnuami added: “‘The constitution cannot be repealed’ this is what Kais Saied has said, but Saied also added that ‘it is permissible to freeze the constitution’, meaning freezing it indefinitely, isn’t that practically repealing the constitution?”
In a statement to Reuters, Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi accused President Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution”.
Reuters has also reported that there has been a sharp decline in bonds issued by the Central Bank of Tunisia in strong currency following Saied’s decisions.
Professor of Political Sociology at Qatar University Majed Al Ansari added that it is it up to the Tunisian people to make judgements surrounding the situation, as they understand the complexities present on the ground in Tunisia the most.
“They have our prayers and support. May God protect a free Tunisia from the plots of the plotters,” he added, without clarifying who he was referring to.
However, President Saeid is among several official in Tunisia who have faced accusations of receiving political support from the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier this year, reports suggested Saeid was planning a ‘soft coup’, though this was swiftly denied. Just a month later, London-based Middle East Eye claimed it had obtained a secret document detailed a planned coup in Tunisia.
On Monday, Qatar’s foreign ministry [MOFA] issued a statement calling on all parties involved in Tunisia’s political crisis to avoid escalation and engage in dialogue to overcome the current situation while upholding “the interests of the Tunisian people, prevail the voice of wisdom”.
The statement went on to express Qatar’s hope for preserving the North African country’s stability “and achieving the aspirations and ambitions of its people for further progress and prosperity”.
Tunisia has continued to grapple with an economic crisis and has struggled to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen more than 18,000 people dead and thousands of daily positive cases.
During its peak earlier this month, over 9,000 daily Covid-19 cases were recorded in the North African nation which hosts a population of 12 million.