Thousands of Tunisians rally against presidential takeover near suspended parliament


Thousands of Tunisians gathered near the country’s parliament on Sunday to protest against a presidential takeover they called a “coup”.

It was the latest rally against President Kais Saied’s July 25 decision to dismiss the government, suspend parliament and seize an array of powers, citing an “imminent threat” to the country – the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against the autocracy.

More than 3,000 demonstrators gathered, shouting “The people want to bring down the coup” and “The Kais project is a civil war” and calling the president an “agent of colonialism”, reported correspondents from the ‘AFP.

Some carried signs saying “No to media intimidation” and calling for “an independent judicial authority”.

The demonstrators “closed all the streets, avenues, highways,” said Jawhar Ben Mbarek, a figure of the Tunisian left.

“After closing the state, Saied closed the institutions, the constitution. He closed the country,” he accused.

Social media users shared footage of police using cars and minivans to prevent protesters from reaching the suburb of Bardo, where the parliament building is located.

Several members of the Islamist Ennahdha party, the force majeure of the dissolved parliament, were in the front row of the procession alongside representatives of the left, waving placards: “The deputies against the coup”.

Military courts “targeting civilians”

Other demonstrators gathered near the parliament, Tunisian flags in hand, and shouted their opposition to the military trials of civilians.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned that “Tunisian military courts are increasingly targeting civilians, in some cases for publicly criticizing President Kais Saied”.

He said that in the past three months at least 10 civilians have been investigated by military courts.

On September 22, Saied suspended parts of the constitution and established government by decree, maintaining full control of the judiciary as well as powers to dismiss ministers and pass laws.

He appointed a new government in October, with Najla Bouden as the country’s first female prime minister.

But he has considerably reduced the powers of his office and will technically lead the administration himself.

Saied, who was elected at the end of 2019, made his gesture of shock amid a socio-economic crisis worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of his opponents accused him of seeking a new dictatorship, a decade after the 2011 Tunisian revolt that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But supporters of the president say his measures were necessary after years of deadlock between political parties seen as corrupt and selfish.



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