In the biggest show of public anger since his intervention, thousands of Tunisians have rallied over the weekend in the Tunisian capital to protest President Kais Saied’s seizure of power, calling on him to step down.
Saied had earlier brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution, giving himself power to rule by decree two months after he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority.
The brewing crisis has endangered the democratic gains won in the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring protests and has slowed efforts to tackle an urgent threat to public finances.
Saied has said his actions, which his opponents have called a coup, are needed to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. He has promised to uphold rights and not become a dictator.
Despite his actions, Saied still has wide support among many Tunisians who are tired of corruption and poor public services and say his hands are clean.
Saied has not given a timeline on his seizure of power but said he would appoint a committee to help draft amendments to the 2014 constitution and establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.”
Tunisia’s largest political party, the Islamist Ennahda has called for people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless, peaceful struggle.”
Ennahda has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that led to the ousting of Ben Ali, playing a role in backing successive coalition governments but Saied’s actions have left it facing a split. More than 100 prominent officials of Ennahda, including lawmakers and former ministers, resigned on Saturday in protest at the leadership’s performance.
After the intervention, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which have long mistrusted Islamists across the Middle East, indicated their support for Saied.