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Tunisia on the brink of collapse as president dissolves government

CM 27/07/2021

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After a decade of rocky stability, the Arab Spring’s lone success story, Tunisia, is nearing the brink of collapse. In an announcement Sunday night, Tunisian President Kais Saied ousted the government and froze the activities of parliament for thirty days.
“We have taken these decisions … until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state,” Saied said in a televised speech, promising that these were only “temporary measures.”
In a Monday night presidential order, Saied doubled down on his power grab, announcing a month-long curfew from 7pm to 6am and ban of gatherings of more than three people in public places.
Saied’s opponents quickly labelled the move as a coup and an assault on the country’s fragile democracy. The leader of Tunisia’s biggest political party, moderate Islamist Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi spoke out: “Today we are witnessing a coup attempt covered with the Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution allows the President to dissolve the parliament or the executive. Even under the state of emergency, the parliament has to remain in session.”
To oppose Saied’s move, Ghannouchi, along with other members of Ennahda, tried to get into parliament Monday to call a session against the move. In response, the army stationed outside blocked him from entering the building.

In his statement Sunday night, Saied said he was invoking Article 80 of the constitution, which allows the president to take “exceptional measures in the event of imminent danger.”
Article 80 says that the parliament speaker and prime minister must be consulted before any emergency powers are invoked. However, parliament speaker Ghannouchi said he was not consulted.
According to the country’s 2014 constitution, the legality of the move should be decided by the country’s constitutional court, however, the mandated court still has not been formed due to internal disputes of who should sit on it.
Ousted Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi issued a statement late Monday night, almost a day after the power grab was announced, where he said he would hand power to the person chosen by the president.
“Therefore, in a sense of keenness to avoid the country further congestion at a time when it most needs to join forces to get out of the crisis situation it lives on all levels…I declare that I am lining up as I have always been alongside our people and their entitlements and declaring that I do not hold any position or responsibility in the state,” Mechichi said.
Tunisia stands as the lone success story of the Arab Spring a decade ago. The country inaugurated the movement after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in late 2010, and ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Since then, the country has existed under a shaky but relatively stable democracy. The most recent government were elected in a popular vote in 2019.
However, Tunisia has recently been embroiled with problems from the pandemic and economic woes. COVID rates have skyrocketed this summer, with the worst rates in the country since the pandemic began. According to health ministry figures, only 7% of the population is fully vaccinated, but more than 90% of ICU beds are occupied. The pandemic has also impacted the economy, with burgeoning rates of unemployment and perceived corruption.
In response to Saied’s announcement Monday night, crowds of people flooded the street in cities around the country. Defying the coronavirus curfew, people could be seen cheering in the street, honking horns, and setting off fireworks in scenes that recalled the 2011 revolution.
Saied warned against violent response, saying that “I warn any who think of resorting to weapons…and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.”
Al Jazeera tweeted that their offices were stormed in the capital, with security forces expelling their journalists from it. In a statement, the Qatari news agency said it views the raid as “an attack on press freedom.”
The response from the international community has been muted and cautious. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Monday that he had a “good phone call” with Saied, and in a press statement, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US is “closely monitoring developments in Tunisia.”
“Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains. The United States will continue to stand on the side of Tunisia’s democracy,” Price’s statement said.
The UN’s response was similarly cautious, with a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guetteres calling on all parties “to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and ensure that the situation remains calm.”
Only Turkey issued a condemnation, with Ömer Çelik, the spokesperson for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party, tweeting that, “Those who do this evil to the brotherly Tunisian people are harming their own country. Tunisian people have the opportunity and experience to overcome the current crisis in unity and solidarity. This is only possible with an immediate return to the Constitutional order.”


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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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