Tunisia is in the throes of a political crisis in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. If the 2011 revolution ousted the autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali from power, putting the country on the path of democratization, the coming to power in 2019 of a fragmented Assembly and a president fiercely independent of the parties. has plunged it into particularly intractable political crises. Decryption.
Angry Tunisians in the street
Several thousand Tunisians demonstrated Sunday against their leaders, especially against the main parliamentary party Ennahdha, as the country is caught between a deadly epidemic peak and power struggles at the top of the state. Public opinion is indeed exasperated by the oppositions between parties in Parliament, and by the standoff between the leader of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi, also leader of Ennahdha, and President Kaïs Saied, who paralyzes decisions. She also denounces the government’s lack of anticipation in the face of the health crisis, leaving Tunisia short of oxygen. With almost 18,000 deaths for 12 million inhabitants, the country has one of the worst death rates in the world.
President Kaïs Saied reacts and freezes Parliament’s activities
After this day of demonstrations, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced Sunday evening that he was freezing the activities of Parliament for 30 days, and dismissing the head of government Hichem Mechichi from his post. “The Constitution does not allow the dissolution of Parliament but it allows the freezing of its activities”, he declared, relying on article 80 which allows this type of measure in the event of “imminent danger”. Kaïs Saied announced that he was in charge of the executive power, with “the help of the government” which will be headed by a new chief appointed by the President of the Republic.
Ennahdha condemns “coup against revolution”
The main party in power in Tunisia, the Islamist formation Ennahdha, condemned in the wake Sunday evening a “coup against the revolution”, after the decision of the president. “What Kais Saied did is a coup against the revolution and against the Constitution, and Ennahdha’s supporters as well as the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ennahdha said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Its leader Rached Ghannouchi, also president of Parliament, accompanied by several deputies, found himself stranded in front of the seat of the chamber, closed by soldiers, according to a video posted by the Facebook account of Ennahdha. “The army must protect the country and religion “, he pleaded by asking for the opening of the huge entrance gate closed with chains. “We are soldiers, we are following the instructions. We have been asked to close Parliament,” replied a soldier. “Soldiers, officers, we ask you to stand alongside the people,” urged Rached Ghannouchi.
Clashes in front of Parliament
Clashes then broke out on Monday. Several hundred supporters of President Saied and Ennahdha exchanged bottles and stones in front of the parliament barricaded by the army, which also surrounded the seat of the presidency of the government in Tunis, preventing staff from accessing it . This dramatic turn weakens the young Tunisian democracy and comes after a standoff for six months between Rached Ghannouchi and President Saied, which is disrupting the country’s public authorities.
The Minister of Defense and the Minister of Justice sacked
Finally, the latest episode to date, the dismissal on Monday afternoon of two new ministers. The Presidency of the Republic indeed announced in a concise statement the dismissal of the Minister of Defense Ibrahim Bartaji, and that of the government spokesman Hasna Ben Slimane, who is also Minister of the Civil Service, and of Justice by interim.