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Tunisia: 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Tunis

People stage a protest against the extraordinary decisions of President Kays Said in Tunis, Tunisia on September 26, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
People stage a protest against the extraordinary decisions of President Kays Said in Tunis, Tunisia on September 26, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

About 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Sunday under a heavy police presence to protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers in July and called on him to step down, reports Reuters.

Saied this week brushed aside much of the 2014 constitution, giving himself the power to rule by decree two months after he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament, and assumed executive authority.

"The people want the fall of the coup," they chanted in the centre of Tunis along Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a focal point of the demonstrations that ended the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. "Step down."

The crisis has endangered the democratic gains that Tunisians won in a 2011 revolution that triggered the "Arab spring" protests and has also slowed efforts to tackle an urgent threat to public finances, worrying investors.

Is Tunisia slipping into a dangerous pitfall?- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Is Tunisia slipping into a dangerous pitfall?- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Saied has said his actions, which his opponents have called a coup, are needed to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation and a poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. He has promised to uphold rights and not become a dictator.

Nadia Ben Salem said she traveled 500 kilometers from the south of the country to express her anger in the protest.

"We will protect democracy…the constitution is a red line," she said, holding up a copy of the constitution.

Saied still has wide support from Tunisians who are tired of corruption and poor public services and say his hands are clean. Tunisia's influential labour union on Friday rejected key elements of President Kais Saied's seizure of near total power and warned of a threat to democracy as opposition widened against a move his foes call a coup.

The first protest against Saied since his intervention on July 25 took place last week. It consisted of several hundred people.

"The language of dialogue has been disrupted with Saied…He does not like dialogue," said lawmaker Iyadh Loumi.

"He wanted to isolate everyone and he is taking all power…Saied must be sacked and put on trial."

Tunisia's largest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, has called Saied's moves "a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy" and called for people to unite and defend democracy in "a tireless peaceful struggle".

Four other political parties issued a joint statement condemning Saied on Wednesday and another large party, Heart of Tunisia, has also done so.

READ: Tunisia's Ghannouchi calls for peaceful struggle against 'absolute autocracy'

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