Hundreds of Tunisians protest against President Saied’s power grab

Tunisians scuffle with security forces in front of the parliament in the capital Tunis, November 14, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

More than 1,000 Tunisians have gathered near the suspended parliament to protest against President Kais Saied’s power grab four months ago.

Opponents of President Saied gathered outside the chamber of the suspended parliament in the capital Tunis on Sunday. Scuffles broke out between police and protesters, with security forces trying to push back the demonstrators from the barricades.

The angry crowd demanded Saied restore the parliament, calling for a normal democratic rule.

Protesters shouted slogans such as, “The people want to bring down the coup d'etat,” “We will not accept a new dictator... we will not back down,” and branded the president an “agent of colonialism.” Jawher Ben Mbarek, a protest leader said, “We are under one-man rule since July 25... We will stay here until they open the roads and end the siege.”

An initiative called Citizens against the Coup, which called for the protests on Sunday, accused the Tunisian authorities of “restricting travel” and limiting “modes of transport” in Tunis in a bid to prevent people from attending the rally. While demonstrators who attend anti-government protests are usually identified as supporters of the Ennahdha Party, which was the biggest party in the now-suspended parliament, the crowd in the rally was “very diverse.”

Sunday’s protest followed clashes last week between police and protesters in the southern town of Agareb in which one person was killed.

Tunisia has been in political turmoil for some time. Late September, Saied brushed aside much of the constitution and gave himself power to rule by decree.

Just two months before that in July, he sacked the prime minister, suspended the parliament and assumed executive authority. Opponents accuse Saied of staging a coup. But the president insists that all he wants is to tackle the country’s political and economic crises and has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution that brought democracy.

Saied, elected in late 2019, has been accused by his opponents of seeking a new dictatorship, a decade after the 2011 revolt that overthrew long time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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