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TUNISIA has been plunged into turmoil by President Kais Saied dissolving parliament and sacking prime minister Hichem Mechichi following a day of mass protests.
Sunday’s move sparked celebrations on the streets of the capital Tunis, as Mr Saied said that he would rule with the support of a new prime minister.
“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said in a statement on state media.
“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons … and whoever shoots a bullet [that] the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he added.
Mr Saied said that his actions were in line with Tunisia’s constitution, which divides power between the president, parliament and PM. He also lifted legislators’ immunity from prosecution “to restore social peace and save the state and society.”
But his opponents, including Ennahdha, the Islamist party that dominates parliament, accused Mr Saied of carrying out “a state coup against the revolution.”
Party leader and parliamentary speaker Rached Ghannouchi said: “We consider the institutions to be still standing and supporters of Ennahdha and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution.”
Mass protests have swept the north African country over the government’s handling of the economy and fears that Mr Mechichi aimed to turn Tunisia into an Islamist state.
Tunisians are also angry about the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 18,000 of the country’s 12 million people having died from the virus.
Tunisia was the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring, which began with the ousting of brutal dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It was also the first of the countries whose rulers were toppled to hold democratic elections, but it has been plagued by instability since then with a succession of often short-lived governments.
Mr Mechichi, elected prime minister in 2019, had faced demands for his resignation from protesters defending state secularism.
Buildings belonging to the Ennahdha Party were torched during demonstrations in a number of regions.
Police stormed the Al Jazeera offices in Tunis today and expelled journalists, under orders from the judiciary. Phones, laptops and other equipment was seized during the raid, which reporters said had been carried out without a warrant.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the raid.
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