The US Secretary of State expressed concern about the political crisis in Tunisia. Earlier, Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended the parliament and disbanded the government. The country’s major political parties called this a “coup”.
Anthony Brinken said on Thursday that he was concerned that Tunisia might deviate from its democratic path and urged action, including the restoration of parliament, after talking with Said on Monday.
The top U.S. envoy stated that Said gave a “lengthy explanation” of why he took unprecedented steps, adding that the President of Tunisia had promised him that he was committed to democracy.
“The intention he expressed to me is to return Tunisia to the democratic path and act in a constitutional manner,” Brinken told Al Jazeera during his visit to Kuwait.
“But of course, we have to look at the actions taken by the president, the actions taken by Tunisia,” he said.
Brinken expressed the hope that Tunisia would “return to the democratic road.”
“Therefore, we strongly hope and expect that Tunisia will return to the path of democracy, act in accordance with the Constitution, unfreeze the parliament, establish a government to work for the people and respond to their needs.”
The State Department previously only stated that Blinken encouraged Said to “adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights,” but did not explicitly call for the return of Parliament.
Said is a political newcomer who intervened after a massive protest against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic after winning an overwhelming presidential election victory in 2019.
He also fired senior officials and heads of national television channels, and announced what he called anti-corruption actions.
Many Tunisians who are struggling to make ends meet and are tired of the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic welcome the seizure of power.
Young democracies are often cited as the only success story of the Arab Spring. However, 10 years later, many people said that their living standards had hardly improved, and were angry at the political impasse between the elites over a long period of infighting.
Freedom of the media
Brinken also stated that the Tunisian government needs to uphold the rights of journalists after the national television station’s director was removed on Wednesday and the decision to attack Al Jazeera’s branch in the capital, Tunisia.
“My comment is that we absolutely support press freedom and the ability of journalists to work,” Brinken told Al Jazeera.
“We expect the Tunisian government to uphold and respect the rights of journalists. This is one of our expectations of them,” he added.
The day before his remarks, President Said replaced the head of the national television station Mohamed al-Dahach, after the reporter syndicate and officials of the Human Rights League were banned from entering the television station.
The person in charge of the Dahahe channel said that he was acting in accordance with the instructions of the military, which was denied by a military spokesperson on the radio. In the end, both guests were allowed to enter.
Bassam Trifi, vice-chairman of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, was one of the guests banned from the channel.
He told Al Jazeera that they will “handle this special situation with care.”
“Yesterday we issued a statement that we will not accept any violation of our freedom, the freedom we gained in 2011,” Triffi said.
“Regardless of the explanation for what happened on national television, civil society knows any attempt to affect our freedom, the freedom the Tunisian people have gained through struggle. We are carefully watching the progress of all this,” he added.
Ravi Prasad, head of global outreach at the International Press Institute, said that since the recent political turmoil, Tunisians have had very limited access to information.
“After the revolution, we have witnessed that in Tunisia there is a lot of freedom for the media,” Prasad told Al Jazeera.
“But now, due to the changes that are taking place, this hard-won freedom for the media is in jeopardy.
“At this moment, we really need Tunisian independent media. We need the support of the international community and pressure the government to stop harassing the media and allow media organizations like Al Jazeera… to operate and to deliver news to the people,” he added .
President Said stated that the parliament will be suspended for 30 days, but he told reporters that the 30-day period can be extended if necessary, “until the situation stabilizes.”
Said accused 460 businessmen of embezzlement when announcing the fight against corruption. In comments published on Wednesday night, the president named and criticized “those who plunder public funds.”
He said he will assume executive power with the assistance of the new prime minister. This is the biggest challenge to the 2014 Constitution, which divides power among the President, Prime Minister and Parliament.
He also suspended the parliamentarian’s immunity, insisting that his actions were constitutional.
His actions were criticized by major political parties including the Islamic Baath Party.