Tunisia erupts as PM ousted

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 27 Jul 2021

Street clashes erupted yesterday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis.

Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days - a move the biggest political party, Ennahdha, decried as a "coup" - following a day of angry street protests against the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Soldiers from early yesterday blockaded the assembly in Tunis while, outside, the president's supporters hurled volleys and stones at backers of Ennahdha, whose leader staged a sit-in to protest being barred entry.

Saied's dramatic move comes even though the constitution enshrines a parliamentary democracy and largely limits presidential powers to security and diplomacy.

It "is a coup d'etat against the revolution and against the constitution," Ennahdha, the biggest party in Tunisia's ruling coalition, charged in a Facebook post, warning that its members "will defend the revolution."

The crisis follows prolonged deadlock between the president, the premier and Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi, which has crippled the Covid response as deaths surged to one of the world's highest per capita rates.

The announcement sparked jubilant rallies by supporters. Crowds took to the streets of the capital on Sunday to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky.

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