Tunisia’s parliament speaker urges ‘peaceful struggle’ against president’s moves

Tunisia's parliament speaker and head of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Rached Ghannouchi is calling for a "peaceful struggle" against the president's power grab

The speaker of Tunisia’s parliament Rached Ghannouchi called Thursday for “peaceful struggle” against a return to “absolute one-man rule”, a day after President Kais Saied took steps towards rule by decree.

“There is no longer any alternative to struggle, naturally a peaceful struggle,” the head of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party said in an interview with AFP.

Saied on Wednesday announced decrees that strengthen the powers of his office at the expense of the government and parliament.

Ghannouchi called the moves “a step back towards absolute one-man rule” a decade after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.

“We call on the people to take part in peaceful actions to resist dictatorship and return Tunisia to the path of democracy,” he said.

The provisions come almost two months after the president sacked the Ennahdha-supported government of Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament, presenting himself as the ultimate interpreter of the constitution.

Ennahdha, the biggest party in the divided legislature, condemned the July 25 moves as a “coup d’etat” and a violation of the country’s hard-won 2014 constitution.

Ghannouchi, 80, camped out for 12 hours in front of parliament in Tunis after Saied’s power grab.

“The situation is worse now than it was before July 25,” he said in the interview.

Before that “there were no arrests over blog posts, no thousands of Tunisians banned from leaving the country”, he added.

Tunisia has seen years of political deadlock since its 2011 revolution, with fractious coalitions and short-lived governments proving unable to resolve pressing social and economic crises.

Elections in 2019 produced another fragmented parliament that once again allowed Ennahdha to dominate the government.

The resulting legislative deadlock, crippling a country hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, meant Saied’s July power grab enjoyed significant public support.

But civil society groups have warned against a slide towards authoritarianism that would wipe out Tunisia’s democratic gains a decade after the revolution toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.


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