The Tunisian president sacked the country’s prime minister on Sunday and froze the activities of parliament after violent protests against the pandemic and the country’s economic situation.
Protesters erupted for joy in the streets of Tunis after the late-night announcement.
President Kais Saied also lifted the immunity of all members of parliament and said he would appoint a new prime minister in the coming hours to restore calm to the country. He used a special constitutional measure allowing him to assume executive power and freeze parliament for an indefinite period until normal institutional functioning could be restored.
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“We made these decisions … until the return of social peace in Tunisia and until we save the state,” he said in a televised speech after a meeting. emergency response following national protests.
Thousands of people defied virus restrictions and scorching heat to protest in the capital Tunis and other cities on Sunday. The largely young crowds shouted “Get out! And slogans calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.
The protests were called to mark the 64th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence by a new group called the July 25 Movement.
The security forces deployed in force, especially in Tunis where police checkpoints blocked all streets leading to the main artery of the capital, Avenue Bourguiba. The avenue was a key site for the Tunisian revolution a decade ago that toppled a dictatorial regime and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
Police were also deployed around the parliament, preventing protesters from accessing it.
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Police used tear gas to disperse some protesters throwing projectiles at officers and made several arrests. Clashes also took place in several other towns, including Nabeul, Sousse, Kairouan, Sfax and Tozeur.
Protesters also stormed the offices of the Islamist Ennahdha movement, the dominant force in parliament. Videos circulating online showed smoke billowing from the Ennahdha building. The attackers damaged computers and other equipment inside and threw documents on the streets.
The party denounced the attack, saying “criminal gangs” inside and outside Tunisia are trying to “wreak havoc and destruction in the service of a program to undermine the Tunisian democratic process” .
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On the coronavirus front, Tunisia has reimposed lockdowns and other virus restrictions as it faces one of the worst virus outbreaks in Africa.
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