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Tunisia: anti-president protests renewed 

A protest against the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied in front of Palais de Justice in Tunis, Tunisia on 10 February 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
A protest against the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied in front of Palais de Justice in Tunis, Tunisia on 10 February 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki called on the Tunisian people yesterday to take part in a popular protest called by the Citizens Against the Coup initiative and the National Salvation Front. The opponents of current President Kais Saied are calling for an end to his "coup", the annulment of the exceptional measures that he introduced last July, and the resumption of the democratic path.

Anadolu reported that thousands of people gathered in front of the Municipal Theatre in the centre of the capital, amidst a heavy security presence. Passers-by were searched by the security forces. Protesters accuse the Tunisian president of dismantling constitutional institutions and seeking to establish what they describe as a "tyrannical" regime.

Najib Chebbi, one of the strongest opponents of the pre-revolution regime, told protesters that, "Tunisians refuse to change the Independent High Authority for Elections and reject Saied's referendum."

Last week, Saied said that a presidential decree relating to dialogue would be issued soon although it is unwanted by parties that he did not name, who fear the dialogue that the referendum will produce. The Tunisian president also announced that the dialogue will be open to those who are "truthfully engaged in the correction movement that began last July"; it will not be open to "those who sold themselves, those who have no patriotism, and those who mistreated, starved and abused the people."

The leader of Ennahda Movement, Alsayed Ferjani, explained that, "The protesters demand that the coup and its supporters should be toppled. Tunisia has not witnessed good times since it took place [last July], and the concern today is how to get flour and oil and receive wages on time."

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According to one member of the parliament dissolved by Saied, Samira Chaouachi, "It has become clear that the people support a return to the democratic course." Like his other political opponents, she accuses Saied of leading a coup.

Hundreds of supporters of the Free Destourian Party led by Abir Moussi, which was affiliated with the regime of the late President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, organised a separate protest against Saied.

Since last July, Tunisia has witnessed a severe political crisis following Saied's imposition of exceptional measures, including the freezing and then dissolution of parliament; the abolition of the body monitoring the constitutionality of legislation; the issuing of legislation by presidential decree; and the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Some Tunisian parties regard these measures as a coup against the constitution, while others see them as a correction to the course of the 2011 revolution. Saied argues that his measures are in accordance with the constitution to protect the state from imminent danger. He insists that his measures are not violating freedoms and rights.

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