President accused of assault on Tunisian democracy after sacking the nation’s prime minister and suspending parliament.
Tunisia’s president described his election victory in 2019 as ‘like a brand new revolution’ – and on Sunday night time he introduced enormous crowds of supporters onto the streets by sacking the federal government and freezing parliament in a transfer his foes known as a coup.
Kais Saied, a 63-year-old political impartial and former constitutional lawyer with a clumsy public method and a choice for an extremely formal talking fashion of classical Arabic, is now on the undisputed centre of Tunisian politics.
Practically two years after his election and a separate vote that created a deeply divided parliament, he has sidelined each the prime minister and parliament speaker with a transfer seen by critics as an unconstitutional energy seize.
Nevertheless, as tens of hundreds of individuals flooded the streets of main cities to have a good time, Saied seemed to be driving a wave of standard anger towards a political elite that has for years did not ship the promised fruits of democracy.
Whereas the parliament speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, has been tainted with the messy compromises of a decade of democratic politics since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, Saied entered the scene in 2019 as a comparative newcomer.
Presenting himself in his marketing campaign as an unusual man taking up a corrupt system, he fought the election with out spending cash and with a bare-bones group of advisers and volunteers – profitable the backing of leftists, Islamists and youths alike.
His supporters stated he spent so little on the election that it value solely the value of the espresso and cigarettes he consumed assembly Tunisians and offered him as a paragon of non-public integrity.
As soon as elected, he appeared for some time shackled by a structure that provides the president direct energy over solely the navy and overseas affairs whereas every day administration is left to a authorities that’s extra answerable to parliament.
Saied has made no secret of his want for a brand new structure that places the president at centre stage – prompting critics to accuse him of eager to emulate Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in stripping his foes of energy.
As president, Saied shortly feuded with the 2 prime ministers who ultimately emerged from the complicated strategy of coalition constructing – first Elyes Fakhfakh after which Hichem Mechichi.
Nevertheless, the most important dispute has been with the reasonable Islamist Ennahda social gathering and its veteran chief Ghannouchi, a former political prisoner and exile who returned to Tunisia in 2011.
Over the previous yr, Saied and Mechichi, backed by Ghannouchi, have squabbled over Cupboard reshuffles and management over the safety forces, complicating efforts to deal with the pandemic and handle a looming fiscal disaster.
As protests erupted in January, nonetheless, it was the federal government and the previous events of parliament who confronted the general public’s wrath – a wave of anger that lastly broke final week as COVID-19 circumstances spiked.
A failed effort to arrange walk-in vaccination centres led Saied to announce final week that the military would take over the pandemic response – a transfer seen by his critics as the most recent step in his energy battle with the federal government.
It set the stage for his announcement on Sunday following protests concentrating on Ennahda in cities across the nation.
In the course of the 2011 revolution, his college students and associates stated, he used to stroll the slender streets of Tunis’ previous metropolis and the grand colonial boulevards downtown late at night time, discussing politics together with his college students.
Saied was one of many authorized advisers who helped draft Tunisia’s 2014 democratic structure, although he quickly spoke out towards components of the doc.
Now, among the principal political inheritors of Tunisia’s revolution are casting him as its executioner – saying his dismissal of presidency and freezing of parliament are an assault on democracy.