Clashes erupted in front of the Tunisian Parliament on Monday the day after President Kaïs Saïed suspended its activities and the Prime Minister’s dismissal. The army has also deployed in the government palace, according to officials.
A political crisis that turns into clashes in Tunisia. Clashes erupted on Monday July 26 in front of the Tunisian Parliament the day after President Kaïs Saïed suspended its activities and the Prime Minister’s dismissal, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis.
Sunday evening, after a day of demonstrations in many cities of the country, President Saïed announced the “freezing” of Parliament’s activities for 30 days. He also dismissed the head of government Hichem Mechichi from his post in a context of strong popular resentment towards the government for its management of the social and health crisis.
Exchanging bottles and stones in front of the Parliament in Tunis, several hundred supporters of President Saîed on Monday prevented supporters of the main parliamentary party Ennahda from approaching their leader, Rached Ghannouchi, also president of the Parliament, noted AFP journalists.
Parked by car in front of the closed door of Parliament for several hours, Rached Ghannouchi was prevented from entering by military forces who blocked the doors of the chamber. He arrived at around 3:00 a.m. (02:00 GMT) with deputies from Ennahda as well as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Samira Chaouachi, of the allied Qalb Tounes party.
“We want to enter Parliament! (…) we are the protectors of the Constitution,” Samira Chaouachi, of the allied Qalb Tounes party, told the soldiers, according to a video published by local media.
“We are the protectors of the nation,” replied one of the soldiers before adding that he was carrying out “the instructions”.
These measures aim to “change the nature of the political regime in Tunisia and transform it from a parliamentary democratic regime to a presidential, individual and authoritarian regime,” said Rached Ghannouchi in a statement published on the official page of Ennahda.
Ennahda, an Islamist-inspired formation, criticized Kaïs Saïed’s measures denouncing “a coup against the revolution and against the Constitution”.
The army deployed in the government palace
Several government officials said the army was deployed on Monday morning in the government palace, located in the Kasbah in Tunis, and was preventing employees from entering the building.
The pan-Arab television channel Al Djazira, for its part, announced that its office in Tunis had been stormed by the Tunisian police, who evacuated all the staff.
Defense and Justice ministers sacked
The President of the Republic will take charge of the executive power himself “with the help of a government whose president will be appointed by the Head of State”, Kaïs Saïed had declared the day before, after a emergency meeting at the Carthage Palace with officials of the security forces.
On Monday, Tunisian President Kais Saied also sacked Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Acting Justice Hasna Ben Slimane, also government spokesperson and Minister of Public Service.
Reaction of France and the United States, “concerned”
France wants “the return, as soon as possible, to normal functioning of institutions” in Tunisia, French diplomacy said on Monday.
“It also calls on all of the country’s political forces to avoid any form of violence, and to preserve the country’s democratic gains,” said the spokesperson for the Quai d’Orsay.
For their part, the United States say they are “concerned” by the political crisis shaking Tunisia and call for respect for “democratic principles” in the country, according to statements by White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Asked during a press briefing to find out whether Washington considered it to be in the presence of a coup, she stressed that this was a “legal definition”, and that this question was being examined by the State Department.
A standoff that has been going on for six months between Rached Ghannouchi and President Saïed paralyzes the government and disorganizes the public authorities, while Tunisia has been facing a peak of coronavirus since early July. With almost 18,000 deaths for 12 million inhabitants, the country has one of the worst death rates in the world.
After Kaïs Saïed’s speech, Tunisians, exasperated by power struggles and the deterioration of the social and health situation, took to the streets on Sunday evening, despite the curfew, firing fireworks and honking their horns with enthusiasm in Tunis and in several other cities.