• Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Tunisia president pledges to protect freedoms

  • Published at 10:24 pm July 30th, 2021
Tunisia Political Turmoil
Police detain a demonstrator during an anti-government protest in Tunis on July 25, 2021 Reuters

Saied on Sunday invoked a national emergency to seize control of government, dismiss the prime minister and freeze parliament in moves his opponents called a coup

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday appointed Ridha Garsalaoui, a former national security adviser to the presidency, to run the Interior Ministry and pledged to protect rights and freedoms.

Saied on Sunday invoked a national emergency to seize control of government, dismiss the prime minister and freeze parliament in moves his opponents called a coup.

Tunisians are awaiting the appointment of a new prime minister and the announcement of a road map to find a way out of the crisis.

"I tell you and the whole world that I am keen to implement the constitutional text and keen more than them on rights and freedoms," Saied said.

"No one has been arrested. No one has been deprived of his rights, but the law is fully applied," he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said he had urged Saied to take action that would return the country "to the democratic path." 

Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, quickly labelled it a coup - language repeated by the three next-largest parties in parliament.

On Friday, Tunisian security forces arrested a parliament member at his home after he criticised President Kais Saied on Facebook and called his seizure of governing powers a coup.

Yassin Ayari, a political independent, has expressed frequent previous criticism of Saied, who on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.

Saied, a political independent without a party machine or other formal organisation behind him, has been backed by the actions of the army, which surrounded the parliament and government buildings on his orders.

Saied's critics fear he may be pushing towards a more authoritarian stance, though he has denied a coup and vowed to uphold citizens' rights and freedoms.

"There are two paths, either a setback to the revolution" or an opportunity to relaunch its democracy with political reforms including a new electoral and political law, said Nizar Makni, a Tunisian politics professor.

Tunisia has strong civil society organisations, including the million-member labour union, that are able to exert great sway over the authorities by mobilising on the street or by shutting down the economy, and which back democracy.

Supporters of Saied have cast his intervention as a welcome reset for the 2011 revolution after years of economic stagnation under a political class that has often appeared more interested in its own narrow advantage than in national gain.