Tunisia's president dismisses prime minister, suspends parliament
Thursday, July 29, 2021
On Sunday, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the country's prime minister, Hichem Mechichi and suspended its parliament following mass nationwide protests in part over the country's economy, and the way in which the government handled the coronavirus pandemic. These protests were largely aimed against the largest party in parliament, the Ennahdha.
Saied announced he would take control until he appointed a new prime minister, parliament would remain suspended for 30 days, and the immunity of the members of parliament would be suspended. Saied invoked Article 80 of the 2014 Tunisian constitution to take executive power intended for when there is "imminent danger threatening the institutions of the nation".
The speaker of the parliament Rached Ghannouchi said Saied consulted neither him nor Mechichi as required by the constitution. The constitution calls for a special court to resolve similar disputes, but it has not yet been established.
Saied held an emergency meeting yesterday in response to the violent protests across Tunisia. Following this meeting, he announced Mechichi's dismissal and parliament's suspension. In a televised address afterward, Saied said, "We have taken these decisions [...] until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state". He said further violence would be met with armed response by the country's armed forces.
Police blockaded roads leading to the capital's main street Avenue Bourguiba. Security forces were deployed to surround the parliament building, preventing access to it. Police in Tunis used pepper spray against protesters throwing rocks, during demonstrations against Mechichi.
Ghannouchi, a member of the Ennahdha party, called the president's actions "a coup against the revolution and constitution", and said, "We consider the institutions to be still standing and supporters of Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution". Ghannouchi said parliament would continue its work despite its suspension.
Mosaïque FM reported Ghannouchi arrived at the parliament building early Monday morning, but he was barred from entry by the army.
Heart of Tunisia and Karama, two other parties in parliament, decried the dismissal as coup as well. Al Jazeera reported that Saied and Mechichi have been in conflict for over a year during an economic crisis in the country, and as the country tries to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 18,000 people have died of the virus in a country of 12 million people.
- "ARP: Ghannouchi quitte les lieux" — Mosaïque FM, July 26, 2021 (French)
- Bouazza ben Bouzza. "Tensions in Tunisia after president suspends parliament" — Associated Press, July 26, 2021
- "Tunisia’s president accused of ‘coup’ after dismissing PM" — Al Jazeera, July 25, 2021
- "Tunisia's PM sacked after violent Covid protests" — BBC News Online, July 25, 2021
- AP. "Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister After Violent Protests" — NPR, July 25, 2021