Tunisia's President dismisses government, freezes parliament

Parliament Speaker accuses President of launching a coup.

Tags: Tunisia
Elad Benari ,

Tunisian President Kais Saied
Tunisian President Kais Saied

Tunisia's President Kais Saied on Sunday dismissed the government and froze parliament following a day of protests around the country, Reuters reported.

Saied also said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, in the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between president, prime minister and parliament.

"Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people," Saied said in a statement carried on state media and quoted by Reuters.

"I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets," he added.

Saied has been enmeshed in political disputes with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi for over a year, as the country grapples with an economic crisis, a looming fiscal crunch and a flailing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the biggest in parliament, accused Saied of launching "a coup against the revolution and constitution" in a phone call to Reuters.

Ennahda won the first parliamentary election in Tunisia after the overthrow of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, but was accused by the opposition of seeking to entrench itself in power, disregarding the interests of a large secular urban population and being lenient toward radical Islamists.

It was later forced to step down in favor of a caretaker government and subsequently lost a 2014 election to its secular rival.