The head of government dismissed, parliamentary work suspended: Tunisia’s president has plunged his country into a political crisis. There is talk of a coup. Violence erupts on the streets of Tunis.
For a long time Tunisia was considered the model country of the Arab Spring – now the young democracy has plunged into a constitutional crisis. Street fighting raged in front of the parliament building in the capital Tunis on Monday; before that, the head of state Kaïs Saïed had dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the work of parliament. The ruling Ennahdha party denounced a “coup”; the federal government expressed concern.
Suspension of Parliament for 30 days
He made the decision to dismiss Mechichi in accordance with Article 80 of the Constitution, Saïed said on Sunday evening after crisis consultations with representatives of the security authorities in view of violent protests in the country against the government’s corona policy. He himself will take over the business of government with the help of a new head of government. The suspension of parliamentary work should apply for 30 days.
“The constitution does not allow the dissolution of parliament, but it allows its work to be suspended,” said Saïed, referring to constitutional article 80, which provides for such a step in the event of “imminent danger”.
Defense and Justice Ministers deposed
The President also announced the lifting of the immunity of all MPs. On Monday he fired Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Interim Justice Minister Hasna Ben Slimane. He later also called an evening curfew, which runs through August 27 from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
The Islamist ruling party Ennahdha accused Saïed of a “coup against the revolution and against the constitution” and announced resistance. Tunisian politics had been determined in the past few months by a power struggle between Mechichi and the President of Parliament and Ennahdha Chairman Rached Ghannouchi on the one hand and President Saïed on the other.
Supporters of the president celebrate in the streets
Immediately after Mechichi’s dismissal became known, thousands of Saïed’s supporters took to the streets in Tunis cheering. “This is the president we love,” said protester Nahla, who was carrying her young daughter on her shoulders. On the other hand, a man around 40 who followed the demonstration from the roadside warned with a glance at Saïed: “These crazy people are celebrating the birth of a new dictator.”
Many Tunisians are dissatisfied with the Corona policy of the political leadership, recently there have been partly violent protests across the country. In the North African country, the number of corona infections is increasing massively, and oxygen is scarce in hospitals. In view of the situation, many Tunisians have recently become angry about the party bickering in parliament and the power struggle that has been going on for months between Mechichi and the parliamentary president and Ennahdha chairman Rached Ghannouchi on the one hand and President Saïed on the other.
Street fights between supporters on both sides
Hundreds of supporters from both political sides marched in front of the hermetically sealed parliament on Monday and fought violent street fights. Among other things, according to an AFP reporter, bottles and stones flew. President Ghannouchi and other Ennahdha MPs sat in a car right in front of the parliament entrance, where they wanted to force their entry into the building.
A high-ranking Ennahdha functionary anonymously suspected that the violence during the nationwide Corona protests on Sunday had been deliberately stoked by presidential supporters so that Saïed could remove the government and parliament.
Tunisia has long been considered a model country
In 2011, the Arab Spring ended the rule of long-term ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Tunisia has long been considered the revolution’s only sustained success story – even though there have been nine different governments in ten years since then. Some of them were only in power for a few months, which made the urgently needed economic and administrative reforms de facto impossible. The North African country continues to be marked by political instability and political fragmentation.
The worsening of the domestic political situation caused international concern. It is important to quickly return to constitutional order, demanded, among other things, the Foreign Office in Berlin. The Federal Government believes that the suspension of parliamentary work announced by Head of State Saïed is a “very broad interpretation of the constitution”.