Tunisian President Kais Saied late on Wednesday issued a decree dissolving parliament, which has been suspended since last year following mass protests.
It came as the lawmakers on Wednesday convened online and voted to repeal presidential decrees that gave him near total power since last year. It is their first session since he suspended the chamber in July
The president termed the parliament’s move a “coup attempt” and a conspiracy against state security and ordered investigations into them.
He said parliament had “lost its legitimacy” and had “betrayed” the nation and the MPs responsible would be prosecuted.
“We must protect the state from division. … We will not allow the abusers to continue their aggression against the state,” Saied said in a video posted online.
The parliament session and Saied’s response intensified Tunisia’s political crisis though it was not clear if they will prompt any immediate change in his grip on power.
Saïed suspended parliament, assumed executive powers and moved to rewrite the constitution eight months ago. He has since ruled by decree.
Since then, anger at economic conditions in Tunisia has sparked street protests, with some involving clashes with the police which had made his opponents to accuse him of a coup.
The former law professor said his actions were constitutional and necessary to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of a corrupt, self-serving elite.
Saied has pledged to form a committee to rewrite the constitution, put it to a referendum in July then hold parliamentary elections in December.