Tunisian President stepped up repression, opposition calls for talks

Tunisia Update

The Tunisian president has extended the country’s curfew and banned public gatherings of more than three people because the opposition has called for negotiations to end the political crisis in this North African country.

Following weekend protests against the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, President Keith Said suspended Parliament and fired the prime minister on Monday.

The country’s largest opposition party and moderate Islamist Nahda accused him of launching a coup in the only democratic country in the Arab world and called for dialogue.

On Tuesday, Said made it clear that these measures are temporary and denied allegations that the measures violate the Constitution. “I am confused by those who talk about coups… I study and teach the law, and I know what a coup means-violates legitimacy,” he said at a meeting with civil society representatives, and the video was posted on his Facebook Page.

The 2019 election of the State party promoted by a former law professor and political outsider is seen as a condemnation of mainstream politicians who are considered corrupt and selfish by many Tunisians.

Said described his actions as being late and necessary to save a country hijacked by vested interests.

Since the revolution in 2011 triggered an uprising throughout the Arab world, the standard of living of Tunisians has plummeted. Multiple grumpy coalition governments have been struggling to manage the economy.

With the soaring inflation rate and the high unemployment rate, the country has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and the government’s response measures have been widely criticized as chaotic and inadequate. The spread of Delta variants has overwhelmed hospitals, and some hospitals lack oxygen supply.

Despite allegations of a coup, Said argued that his actions were consistent with the 2014 constitution drafted after the revolution. He said that the charter gave him the right to take measures he deems appropriate in situations where the country is “imminent” danger. He also pointed to what he described as corruption within the political class, which he said weakened the government and the services provided to the Tunisian people.

“The danger is imminent, in fact it already exists,” he said. “Tunisia has gone from a single political party to a single lobby. They have divided the country and its assets into their own private property… In this pandemic, we are leading the Arab and African countries. status[in Covid-19 mortality]… Isn’t that an imminent danger? “

Civil society leaders attending the meeting on Tuesday included representatives from four organizations that jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. The award is in recognition of their role in reaching a compromise between Tunisian Islamists and their secular forces, thereby saving the country’s democratic transformation from collapse.

The four groups known as the Quartet of the Tunisian National Dialogue are: the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT), a powerful trade union federation; the Tunisian Federation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, which represents the business world; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Bar Association.

UGTT issued a statement on Monday, cautiously supporting Said’s move, but calling for guarantees to return to the constitutional track. The trade union slammed the spread of corruption lobbying within the country, but insisted that “every measure taken in this sensitive period must comply with the legitimacy of the Constitution.”

Hamza Medb, a scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said that the prudent tone adopted by UGTT is “good positioning to make it possible to act as an intermediary for the new phase of the roadmap and to act as an intermediary between Nahda and the president.” .

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