Tunisia’s foreign minister telephoned his counterparts in the European Union, as well as Turkey and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to reassure them after the president suspended parliament and removed the government, the ministry said at the latest. time on Tuesday, when the opposition called for elections.
Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi said he explained that the extraordinary measures were temporary and that his counterparts pledged their continued support for the fledgling democracy.
Earlier Tuesday, Saudi Arabia affirmed its confidence in Tunisia’s leadership, according to the Saudi state news agency (SPA).
“Saudi Arabia affirms its confidence in the Tunisian leadership to overcome these circumstances and achieve a dignified life and prosperity for the brother Tunisian people.”
The country plunged into a crisis after President Kais Saied removed the government with the help of the army, a move denounced as a coup by Tunisia’s main parties, including the largest political bloc, Ennahdha.
Moroccan and Algerian foreign ministers Nasser Bourita and Ramtane Lamamra also met with Saied in Tunis on Tuesday, according to the Tunisian Foreign Ministry.
Call for elections
Opponents of Saied have said they are ready for snap elections while warning against an “autocratic regime.”
The Ennahdha party said that “for the sake of the democratic path”, it is “ready to go to early legislative and presidential elections” and warned “that any delay does not serve as a pretext to maintain an autocratic regime.”
The party also accused Saied of having “worked with anti-democratic forces to nullify the constitutional rights of elected officials and replace them with members of his own” chosen clique. “
Noureddine Bhiri, a senior Ennahdha leader, said the party had “decided to peacefully campaign to defeat” the president’s plans, saying “national solidarity” was needed.
But before the elections, “the parliament must resume its activities and the military must end its control,” Bhiri told the AFP news agency.
After the violent clashes on Monday, Ennahdha said that “organized thugs” were being used to “provoke bloodshed and chaos”, and urged his supporters “to return home in the interest of maintaining the peace and security of our nation. “.
The young North African democracy of 12 million people, the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings 10 years ago, was embroiled in a constitutional crisis on Sunday.
Saied appeared on national television to declare that he had removed the prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, and ordered the parliament closed for 30 days, then sent army troops to the legislature and the prime minister’s office.
The president’s actions, ostensibly “to save Tunisia,” followed a day of street protests against the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left Tunisia with one of the highest official per capita death figures. of the world.
The president also said he would elect a new prime minister, lifted legislators’ parliamentary immunity and warned that the armed opposition would be greeted with a “hail of bullets.” He later fired the defense and justice ministers.
Street clashes between his supporters and opponents broke out Monday in front of the parliament barricades, leaving several people injured.
Police also closed the office of Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, the parent company of Al Jazeera English online.
The Tunisian parliament office, chaired by Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi, expressed its “absolute rejection and strong condemnation” of the president’s actions late on Monday.
Tunisia’s economy contracted 8.6 percent last year and another 3 percent in the first three months of this year on an annualized basis, according to government data.
Tourism, one of the foundations of the economy that generates foreign exchange, was decimated in 2020. https://t.co/nlDLrNqaW1
– Ramy Allahoum (علاهم) (@rallahoum) July 26, 2021
‘Principles of democracy’
Many Tunisians have expressed their support for the president and thousands flooded the streets to celebrate Sunday night, but others expressed fear of a return to dictatorship.
The French-language newspaper Le Quotidien wrote on Tuesday that the “kick … in Saied’s parliamentary anthill has taken many people by surprise, starting with Ennahdha.”
The young democracy had often been cited as the only Arab Spring success story; The tumult broke out across the region after Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate who could only find work as a fruit vendor, set himself on fire in December 2010.
Tunisia, nestled between Algeria, which faces political turmoil and a war-torn Libya, is seen as key to regional stability.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Saied on Monday by phone, urging him to “adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights that are the basis of governance in Tunisia.”
The top US diplomat urged Saied to “maintain an open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people,” the State Department said.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, urged on Tuesday “the resumption of parliamentary activity, respect for fundamental rights and abstention from all forms of violence.”
Moussa Faki Mahamat, president of the African Union Commission on Tuesday called for “strict respect for the Tunisian constitution … and the promotion of political dialogue.”