- Biggest demonstration since the intervention of the president
- Opposition to Saied’s intervention widens
- Influential union rejects Saied’s actions
TUNIS, Sep 26 (Reuters) – Several thousand demonstrators gathered in the Tunisian capital on Sunday to protest President Kais Saied’s takeover, calling on him to step down in the biggest manifestation of public anger since his intervention .
Saied this week sidelined much of the 2014 constitution, giving himself the power to rule by decree two months after sacking the prime minister, suspending parliament and seizing executive power.
“The people want the fall of the coup,” chanted the crowd on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, the focal point of the demonstrations that put an end to the regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011 . “Resign.
Police maintained a strong presence around the protest and erected barricades.
The crisis has jeopardized the democratic gains Tunisians won in the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring protests and slowed down efforts to deal with an urgent threat to public finances.
Saied said his actions, which his opponents have called a coup, are necessary to deal with a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. He promised to stand up for rights and not to become a dictator.
Nadia Ben Salem said she traveled 500 km (310 miles) from the south to express her anger.
“We will protect democracy… the constitution is a red line,” she said, holding up a copy of the constitution.
SUPPORT FOR SAIED
Saied still enjoys broad support among many Tunisians who are fed up with corruption and poor public services and say he has his hands clean. Dozens of his supporters appeared at the protest. The police separated the two camps.
“We support Saied because he has declared war on a corrupt political class,” said a man who would only give his first name, Ahmed.
Saied did not set any time limit on his takeover, but 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.”
Teacher Abdelfattah Saied said it was time for the president to leave.
“He acts as if he is the sun rising over the country, the attorney general, the president, the parliament, the government. As if he was everything. “
Political analyst Slaheddine Jourchi said the protest was a clear escalation against the president and that there was a risk of further divisions among Tunisians if the doors to political dialogue remained closed.
Tunisia’s largest political party, moderate Islamist Ennahda, called on the people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless and peaceful struggle”.
Ennahda has been Tunisia’s most powerful party since the 2011 revolution that led to Ben Ali’s ouster, playing a role in supporting successive coalition governments.
But Saied’s actions left him facing a split. More than 100 senior Ennahda officials, including lawmakers and former ministers, resigned on Saturday to protest the leaders’ performance.
After the intervention, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which have long been wary of Islamists across the Middle East, indicated their support for Saied.
The influential Tunisian union on Friday rejected key elements of Saied’s actions and warned of a threat to democracy.
The first protest against Saied since his intervention on July 25 took place last week.
Written by Michael Georgy Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Toby Chopra
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