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Hundreds gather in Tunisia to oppose presidents ‘power grab’

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Protesters are calling on President Kaïs Saied to resign after he announced he would rule by decree.

Hundreds of protesters have rallied in Tunisia’s capital to protest President Kais Saied’s move to seize governing powers.

Demonstrators gathered on Sunday in the centre of Tunis along Habib Bourguiba Avenue under heavy police presence to demand his resignation, chanting, “The people want the fall of the coup.”

Brushing aside much of the 2014 constitution, Saied had given himself the power to rule by decree on Wednesday, two months after sacking the prime minister, suspending Parliament, and assuming executive authority.

About 20 global and Tunisian human rights groups issued a statement on Saturday condemning the move as a “power grab”.

The signatories argued the decree, which strengthens the powers of the president’s office at the expense of those of the prime minister and Parliament, is “implicitly abrogating the constitutional order in … a first step towards authoritarianism”.

The protest was the second since Saied dismissed the government and suspended Parliament on July 25.

However, Saied’s move has the consensus of large swaths of the population, who see his actions as necessary to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation, and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cherif El Kadhi, a former parliamentary officer, told Al Jazeera the demonstrations were a sign that Saied’s actions are loathed as much as they are accepted.

“These protests I think will continue to gain momentum depending on the economic situation,” he said.

“It’s quite clear Tunisians are fed up with the political elite 10 years after the revolution,” which is why they have put their trust in Saied, a former law professor, he added.

However, discontent could lead to more protests in the coming weeks and months, he said.

Tunisia’s largest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahdha, decried Saied’s moves as “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy”, and called for people to unite and defend democracy in “a tireless peaceful struggle”.

Ennahdha is itself grappling with internal dissent after 113 senior party members announced their resignation on Saturday. They blamed the head of the party, Rachid Ghannouchi, and his entourage for failing to form a united front to oppose Saied and confront the country’s political crisis.



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