- Tunisian President Kais Saied fired the nation’s prime minister and paused parliament for 30 days.
- The speaker of parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi, accused Saied of staging a coup.
- Anti-government protests arose over the weekend around the country as COVID-19 cases surge.
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The president of Tunisia – the most successful democracy that rose from the Arab Spring protests – fired the country’s prime minister and froze parliament for 30 days over the weekend.
President Kais Saied announced the moves on Sunday, saying that a new prime minister would take up executive authority from Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi.
“We have taken these decisions … until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state,” he said in a televised address, according to the Washington Post.
Political opponents – including parliament speaker Rachid Ghannouchi – have accused Saied of attempting to stage a coup. According to the Tunis Afrique Press, Ghannouchi was denied access to the parliament on Monday by military and other security forces.
“It’s a coup against the constitution, against the revolution, against public and private freedoms,” Ghannouchi said. “This is why I’m calling on the Tunisian people to stand with their revolution, with their constitution, and to lead a peaceful struggle to restore the democracy that was canceled by this statement.”
Saied’s decision came directly after protestors converged in cities around the country on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence. Reuters reported that the rioters broke into the offices of the Ennahda Party, a democratic Islamist political party, in several cities and set aflame a local headquarters in Tozeur.
Ghannouchi co-founded the Ennahda Party in 1981 and the movement currently holds 52 seats, the most of any of the nation’s parties in the country’s legislative branch, the Assembly of the Representatives of the People.
Tunisia is also in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths. According to the World Health Organization’s Healthy Emergency Dashboard, there have been 569,289 confirmed cases and 18,600 deaths as of July 26. According to Reuters, only 7% of the country is fully vaccinated and nearly 14% have received at least one dose.