Following violent massive protests on Sunday, July 25, Tunisia’s president fired the prime minister and suspended parliament.
The government’s response towards a recent surge of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (COVID-19) infections has contributed to the country’s economic and social issues and led to the frustration.
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has stated his intention to take over the executive power.
Following the president’s statement, his backers erupted in applause, but his detractors in parliament denounced him of attempting a coup. On Monday, July 26, confrontations between competing groups continued.
Near the parliament, which has been surrounded by troops who have also barred employees from accessing certain government offices, the opposing protesters stoned each other, according to the BBC.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who was sacked, holds the support of Ennahda, the largest party in parliament. President Saied, an independent who was voted in 2019, has a long-running conflict with Mechichi.
Tunisia’s 2011 revolution has not made the country stable economically or politically though it is often praised as the region’s single success of the Arab Spring revolts.
The public dissatisfaction that has been building over time was exacerbated with the recent coronavirus outbreak. After a botched vaccination campaign, the health minister was fired last week.
Thousands of Tunisians rallied opposing the Prime Minister and Ennahda, the country’s moderate Islamist party in power, on Sunday, July 25, with its local headquarters in Touzeur, in the south-west, were set ablaze.
Social media advocates organized the rallies, which were the largest in Tunisia in months and the largest to target Ennahda in years. The rallies were not officially supported by any political groups.
Pepper spray was deployed by Tunisian police against demonstrators who tossed stones and yelled chants asking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s resignation and the dissolution of parliament. Other large protests took place in Gafsa, Sidi Bouzid, and Nabeul, France 24 reported.
This was “the happiest moment since the revolution”, Lamia Meftahi, a Tunisian demonstrator, told Reuters. The president had “shown himself to be a true statesman”, another citizen of Gafsa told the AFP news agency.
However, another resident there stated, “These fools are celebrating the birth of a new dictator.”
Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of parliament and the leader of Ennahda, attempted to enter the Tunisian parliament in the early hours of Monday, July 26. Those who backed Mr Saied’s move stopped him, and he reacted with a sit-in protest with his own supporters.
Al Jazeera TV, which has been seen as supportive to Ennahda, later on Monday reported security officers invaded its Tunisian offices, disconnecting all equipment and ordering employees to leave.
“We have taken these decisions… until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state”, Mr Saied said in a television interview on Sunday, and he later joined the Tunisian crowds in their excitement.
If the unrest continued, military action will be used, Saied threatened.
“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons… and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he claimed.