Protesters clash in Tunisia after president FIRES the prime minister and suspends parliament


Street clashes erupted outside Tunisia‘s army-barricaded parliament on Monday, the day after the president suspended parliament and fired the prime minister following protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic.  

President Kais Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days on Sunday, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis.

It was a move which appeared to be backed by the army but was labelled a coup by foes including influential Islamists. 

Soldiers from early Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis while, outside, supporters of the rival sides hurled stones, bottles, and insults at each other.  

Police stormed Al Jazeera’s offices in Tunis and asked all journalists to leave. Officers said they were carrying out orders. 

Street clashes erupted outside Tunisia’s army-barricaded parliament on Monday, the day after the president suspended parliament and fired the prime minister following protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic

President Kais Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days on Sunday, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis and sparking mass protests

President Kais Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days on Sunday, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis and sparking mass protests

Protesters scuffled with police and rival political supporters during a demonstration outside the parliament building in Tunis on Monday after the prime minister was sacked and the parliament suspended

Protesters scuffled with police and rival political supporters during a demonstration outside the parliament building in Tunis on Monday after the prime minister was sacked and the parliament suspended

Outside the parliament in Tunis  supporters of the rival sides hurled stones, bottles, and insults at each other

Outside the parliament in Tunis  supporters of the rival sides hurled stones, bottles, and insults at each other

Supporters of Tunisia's President Kais Saied throw stones towards the Parliament building which was cordoned-off by the military on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied throw stones towards the Parliament building which was cordoned-off by the military on Monday

Soldiers from early Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis and parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, who said he would call a session in defiance of the president, was blocked from entering by the army

Soldiers from early Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis and parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, who said he would call a session in defiance of the president, was blocked from entering by the army

Ennahda supporters take cover from stones thrown at them by supporters of President Kais Saied outside the parliament on Monday

Ennahda supporters take cover from stones thrown at them by supporters of President Kais Saied outside the parliament on Monday

Tunisian military forces guard the area around the parliament building in the capital Tunis as thousands turn out to protest after the prime minister was sacked on Sunday

Tunisian military forces guard the area around the parliament building in the capital Tunis as thousands turn out to protest after the prime minister was sacked on Sunday

Supporters of Tunisia's President Kais Saied chant slogans denouncing the country's main Islamist Ennahda on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied chant slogans denouncing the country’s main Islamist Ennahda on Monday

President Kais Saied

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi

President Kais Saied (left) sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi (right) and suspended parliament for 30 days on Sunday, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis

Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi arrived at the parliament early on Monday morning and said he would call a session in defiance of Saied, but the army stationed outside the building stopped the 80-year-old former political exile from entering.

Last night he decried Saied’s decision as an assault on democracy and called on Tunisians to take to the streets in opposition. 

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

But Saied, who swept to office in 2019 after campaigning as the scourge of a corrupt, incompetent elite, has rejected accusations that he had conducted a coup.

He said his actions were based on Article 80 of the constitution and framed them as a popular response to the economic and political paralysis that have mired Tunisia for years. 

The parties with the most seats in parliament said Article 80 did not support Saied’s move.

Two of the other main parties in parliament, Heart of Tunisia and Karama, joined Ennahda in accusing Saied of a coup. 

Protesters carried signs reading 'Game over' at a demonstration after the prime minister was sacked and parliament suspended by the president on Sunday

Protesters carried signs reading ‘Game over’ at a demonstration after the prime minister was sacked and parliament suspended by the president on Sunday

Supporters of Tunisia's largest party Ennahda gathered outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia’s largest party Ennahda gathered outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia's President Kais Saied throw stones towards the Parliament building which was cordoned-off by the military on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied throw stones towards the Parliament building which was cordoned-off by the military on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia's President Kais Saied were seen throwing stones at Ennahda supporters at a protest outside the parliament building on Monday

Supporters of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied were seen throwing stones at Ennahda supporters at a protest outside the parliament building on Monday

Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building the day after the president sacked the PM and suspended parliament

Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building the day after the president sacked the PM and suspended parliament

Female supporters of moderate Islamist party Ennahda stand in front of security officers guarding the country's parliament building

Female supporters of moderate Islamist party Ennahda stand in front of security officers guarding the country’s parliament building

Supporters of Tunisia's Ennahda party gathered outside the parliament building on Monday after President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister and suspended parlaiment

Supporters of Tunisia’s Ennahda party gathered outside the parliament building on Monday after President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister and suspended parlaiment

Tunisian protesters hold up placards with slogans denouncing what they described as a "coup d'etat" outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis

Tunisian protesters hold up placards with slogans denouncing what they described as a ‘coup d’etat’ outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis

A injured man is helped by fellow protesters after he was hit on the head by a stone thrown at him during a demonstration outside the parliament building on Monday

A injured man is helped by fellow protesters after he was hit on the head by a stone thrown at him during a demonstration outside the parliament building on Monday

Saied said the constitution did not allow for the dissolution of parliament, but did allow him to suspend it, citing Article 80 which permits it in case of ‘imminent danger’. 

In a later Facebook post, he clarified that the suspension would be for 30 days.

‘I have taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people,’ Saied declared in a statement on Sunday, a day that had seen angry Covid street protests in multiple cities. 

Saied also said in his statement that he had suspended the legal immunity of parliament members and that he was taking control of the general prosecutor’s office.

He warned against any armed response to his actions. ‘Whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,’ said Saied, who has support from a wide array of Tunisians including both Islamists and leftists.

‘We are navigating the most delicate moments in the history of Tunisia,’ Saied said on Sunday.

Saied said he would take over executive power ‘with the help’ of a government, whose new chief will be appointed by the president himself.

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

The president’s announcement sparked jubilant rallies by his supporters late on Sunday while the military blocked off parliament and state televisions station. 

Large crowds took to the streets of the capital to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky.

‘Finally some good decisions!’ said one Tunis protester, Maher, celebrating in defiance of a coronavirus curfew. 

Others held up signs with a simple message to the sacked government: ‘Game Over’. 

Nahla, brandishing a Tunisian flag, was jubilant and told AFP: ‘These are courageous decisions – Saied is unblocking Tunisia. This is the president we love!’

While Tunis Farhat, a 49-year-old in Gafsa, told AFP that the president had understood what people wanted.

‘He has shown himself to be a true statesman,’ he said.

‘Our patience has reached its limit, there’s no room for losers. That’s it, game is over!’ said 24-year-old Ibrahim, echoing an old slogan from the massive demonstrations which toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime in 2011.

But one man, aged in his forties, watched on without enthusiasm and said: ‘These fools are celebrating the birth of a new dictator.’ 

The president's announcement sparked jubilant rallies by his supporters late on Sunday while the military blocked off parliament and state televisions station

The president’s announcement sparked jubilant rallies by his supporters late on Sunday while the military blocked off parliament and state televisions station

Large crowds took to the streets of the capital to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky

Large crowds took to the streets of the capital to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky

People celebrated President Kais Saied's announcement in the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis on Sunday night

People celebrated President Kais Saied’s announcement in the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis on Sunday night

People across the country took to the streets to celebrate President Kais Saied's decision to sack the prime minister and suspend parliament late Sunday

People across the country took to the streets to celebrate President Kais Saied’s decision to sack the prime minister and suspend parliament late Sunday

Families came out to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky

Families came out to celebrate and wave the national flag, as car horns sounded through the night and fireworks lit up the sky

Flares and fireworks lit up the sky over Tunis on Sunday night as residents celebrated President Kais Saied's decision to sack the prime minister following a day of anti-government protests

Flares and fireworks lit up the sky over Tunis on Sunday night as residents celebrated President Kais Saied’s decision to sack the prime minister following a day of anti-government protests

Before the president’s announcement, thousands had marched in several cities protesting against Ennahda, criticising the largest party in Tunisia’s fractious government for failures in tackling the pandemic.

Demonstrations were also reported in the towns of Gafsa, Kairouan, Monastir, Sousse and Tozeur. 

A senior Ennahda official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, alleged that the protests before the president’s announcement, and the subsequent celebrations, had all been choreographed by Saied.

‘We are also capable of organising large demonstrations to show the number of Tunisians who are opposed to these decisions,’ this official said. 

Several protesters were arrested and a journalist was injured when people hurled stones and police fired tear gas canisters, an AFP reporter said.

‘The people want the dissolution of parliament,’ the crowd had chanted.

In the 10 years since the revolution which toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has had nine governments, some of which have lasted only a few months, hindering the reforms necessary to revamp its struggling economy and poor public services.

Tunisia has recently been overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases which have raised the death toll to more than 18,000.

Last week, Mechichi fired his health minister over his handling of the pandemic as cases skyrocketed – the latest in a string of health ministers to be sacked.  

Before the president's announcement, thousands had marched in several cities protesting against Ennahda, criticising the largest party in Tunisia's fractious government for failures in tackling the pandemic

Before the president’s announcement, thousands had marched in several cities protesting against Ennahda, criticising the largest party in Tunisia’s fractious government for failures in tackling the pandemic

Demonstrations were reported in the towns of Gafsa, Kairouan, Monastir, Sousse and Tozeur, as well as in the capital, Tunis

Demonstrations were reported in the towns of Gafsa, Kairouan, Monastir, Sousse and Tozeur, as well as in the capital, Tunis

Tunisian anti-government protesters gesture as they face off with security forces at a rally in front of the parliament building on Sunday

Tunisian anti-government protesters gesture as they face off with security forces at a rally in front of the parliament building on Sunday

Police officers run towards demonstrators during an protest against the government's handling of the pandemic on Sunday

Police officers run towards demonstrators during an protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic on Sunday

Thousands of demonstrators across Tunisia protested against the government on Sunday, sparking the president to fire the prime minister and suspend parliament

Thousands of demonstrators across Tunisia protested against the government on Sunday, sparking the president to fire the prime minister and suspend parliament



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