Thousands of Tunisian demonstrators gathered in the capital on Sunday to protest against President Kais Saied’s “exceptional measures” and the seizure of almost total power in the country.
Government critics have described the latest measures as “a coup”. A protester, Yassin Ben Amor said “We will not accept the coup. Enough is enough,”
“We are against the coup… We reject the speech of division,” said Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, a prominent activist and main organiser of protests against Saied, saying they must be loyal to those killed in the 2011 revolution.
A week after thousands demonstrated in support of Saied, the growing numbers raise the possibility of Tunisia’s political divisions spiralling into street confrontations between rival camps.
At the end of July, Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July in moves his foes call a coup. Last month he brushed aside much of the constitution, which he said he would appoint a committee to amend, adding that he could rule by decree.
Many see the president’s latest actions as a return to autocracy and the status quo that led to the Arab Spring in 2011.
“The future in Tunisia is really scary to me. For now, we don’t know what we will have as institutions. We don’t have a parliament, we don’t have democracy in our country. I am really scared”, said Raja Masmoudi, a teacher who took part in the demonstration in Tunis.
“We need this crowd to be ten times more, and not just in Tunis but in all the governorates, in all the big cities, (the demonstrations) have to be everywhere. We have to get to the stage of civil disobedience, because if Kais Saied and if those who carried out the coup stay in place, then Tunisia will be financially ruined and we will have a civil war, like Lebanon 40 years ago” claims Mohamed Souhail, a 63-year-old engineer.
In the latest raft of measures, on September 22nd, the President partially suspended the 2014 constitution giving himself the power to rule by decree.
President Saied justified his actions by saying he is saving the country from a triple economic, political and health crisis.
With the political manoeuvering over Tunisia’s future moving very slowly, Saied has pointed to the street mobilisation to support his position
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