Mass protest as Tunisia political crisis escalates

TUNIS— Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Tunisian capital to protest President Kaïs Saied’s recent decrees bolstering the already near-total power he granted himself two months ago.

They include the continuing suspension of the parliament’s powers, the suspension of all legislators’ immunity from prosecution, and a freeze on their salaries.

In July, Saied decided to sack the country’s prime minister, suspend parliament – whose powers are now frozen – and assume executive authority, saying it was because of a national emergency.

His critics called it a coup.

Protesters on Sunday demanded the country’s constitution be respected and parliament reinstated.

Dozens of Saied supporters held a counter-protest but were separated by security barriers.

On Saturday, more than 100 Ennahdha party officials announced their resignations to protest the movement’s leadership.

In a statement on Saturday, 113 senior officials from Tunisia’s largest party announced they resigned over its failure to confront what they called an “imminent tyrannical danger”.

The group blamed Ennahdha for its inability to form a common front to oppose Saied’s power grab, which began with the decision to sack the government and suspend parliament on July 25.

Among the signatories of the Ennahdha statement were eight lawmakers and several former ministers, including former Minister of Health Abdellatif Mekki, who said in a Facebook post that he was deeply saddened by the decision but saw the decision as inevitable.

“I have no choice,” he said. “We must confront the coup for the sake of Tunisia.”

Some Ennahdha officials had called for the resignation of their leader Rached Ghannouchi, the parliament speaker, over the party’s response to the political crisis.

Ennahdha has reiterated that it considered Saied’s decision to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister as “unconstitutional”, but has taken a conciliatory approach, calling on the president to reverse the measures.

Ennahdha has been the most powerful party in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, playing a role in backing successive coalition governments.