Several thousand demonstrators for the first time since President Kais Saied’s intervention rallied in the Tunisian capital on Sunday to protest against his one-man show of power grab, calling on him to step down.
“The people want the fall of the coup,” chanted the crowd on Tunis’s Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a focal point of the demonstrations that ended the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011.
After the president sacked the Prime Minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July, he brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution, giving himself power to rule by decree.
Saied has said his actions, which his opponents have called a coup, are needed to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Not placing any time limit on his seizure of power, the president said he would appoint a committee to help draft amendments to the 2014 constitution and establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign”.
On the other end, there is still a wide range of support among many Tunisians because Saied they said declared war against a corrupt political class. Dozens of his supporters appeared at the demonstration. The Police maintained a heavy presence around the demonstration and set up barricades separated the two camps.
On Saturday, more than 100 Ennahdha officials announced their resignations to protest the choices of the movement’s leadership, with one senior lawmaker quoting the “impossibility of reforming the party from the inside”.
Tunisia’s largest and most powerful party since the 2011 revolution that led to the ousting of Ben Ali; the moderate Islamist Ennahda called for people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless, peaceful struggle”.
Analysts warn of a risk of further divisions among Tunisians if the doors of political dialogue remained closed.