The suspension of the parliament was announced yesterday by its president Tunisia Kais Sagent, ousting the government of Prime Minister Hisham Masisi. According to the Athenian Macedonian News Agency, the country’s army has deployed around the prime minister’s palace in the old city of Tunis, preventing workers from entering.
Meanwhile, according to a source close to Masisi and two security sources, the Tunisian prime minister is at home and has not been arrested. Sagent also appointed Khaled Yahyaoui, director general of the presidential guard, as head of the interior ministry.
Meanwhile, clashes erupted this morning in front of the Tunisian parliament, a day after Sagent’s surprise decision.
Supporters of the Tunisian president threw bottles and stones at supporters of parliament’s largest party, the Islamist Ennahda, to approach his leader and parliament speaker, Rachid Ganoussi, who is holding a sit-in protest outside the building.
Ganousi remained in his car for hours after soldiers prevented him from entering parliament.
In an announcement posted on its account on the social networking site Facebook, the presidency announced yesterday Sunday that the Tunisian parliament will be suspended for 30 days. The president “will exercise executive power with the help of a government whose head will be appointed by the head of state,” he added.
“The constitution does not allow the dissolution of parliament, but it does allow the suspension of its activities,” Sagent said, referring to Article 80 of the constitution, which provides for such a measure in the event of “imminent danger” to the country.
For its part, Enachda denounced a “coup against the revolution and the Constitution,” in a statement posted on the same social networking site. Ennahda has been joined by two other coalition parties, the Kalb Tunes and the nationalist Islamist movement Karama, which have condemned Sagent’s decision.
The Democratic Current, a Social Democratic party that has repeatedly backed the Tunisian president, criticized his move yesterday, but blamed it “for the popular tension and the social, economic and health crisis (…) in the government under Enachda”.
Rapid developments followed mass mobilizations in several Tunisian cities yesterday despite the deployment of large police forces to restrict movement and rallies. Thousands of protesters mainly demanded the “dissolution of parliament”.
The president himself took to the streets to meet with protesters, amid cheers, on the same streets as the 2011 demonstrations.
For the past six months, there has been intense confrontation between Ganoussi and Sagent, which has paralyzed the government and disrupted the state apparatus, as Tunisia faces a severe wave of the coronavirus epidemic since early July.
The revolution of 2011, the first of the so-called Arab Spring, had led to the ousting of ousted Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, putting Tunisia on the path to democratization, which it continued to pursue despite many challenges, both social and security.
However, after the emergence in 2019 of a parliament with fragmented power and a passionately non-partisan president, who was elected due to dissatisfaction with the political order that has been in power since 2011, the country plunged into an extremely unresolved political crisis.