Thousands of Tunisians demonstrated in the city on Sunday against President Kais Saied’s near-total seizing of power, despite a heavily armed police presence attempting to prevent them from marching down central Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
A week after thousands rallied in favor of Saied, the increasing number of demonstrators on both sides suggests that Tunisia’s political tensions may escalate into street clashes between the two camps.
“We will reject the coup attempt. It is sufficient, “According to protester Yassin ben Amor. The march was peacefully stopped by police, despite the fact that some protesters hurled plastic bottles.
Saied ousted the prime minister, suspended parliament, and seized executive power in July, actions his detractors characterize as coup attempts. He swept away a large portion of the constitution last month, announcing that he would convene a committee to rewrite it and asserting his right to govern by decree.
His involvement calls into question Tunisians’ democratic achievements after the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring protests.
He nominated Najla Bouden Romdhane as prime minister, but she has yet to form a cabinet, a critical prelude to any attempts to address Tunisia’s impending fiscal crisis, though Saied indicated on Saturday that she will do so shortly.
During a Saturday meeting with temporary interior minister Ridha Gharsalaoui, Saied said that he would start a discussion with Tunisians and young leaders, especially from the provinces, about the future.
The Interior Ministry’s spokesperson, Khaled Hayouni, stated that police will treat demonstrators on all sides equally.”The Tunisian police force is a republican force that does not engage in any political conflict,” he said.
Any discussion that excludes major political parties and other pillars of civil society, such as the strong labor unions, is likely to generate more open resistance to his policies.
Western donors, whose assistance is necessary to avoid a collapse of Tunisia’s state finances, have asked for an inclusive approach to resolve the crisis, as well as a defined timetable.
With Tunisia’s political maneuvering proceeding at a snail’s pace, Saied has emphasized the public mobilization in favor of his stance.
Over 8,000 protesters gathered in Tunis last week in favor of Saied, according to Reuters journalists and the official news agency, while the Interior Ministry said that about 5,000 participated. Saied said the next day that 1.8 million people came out in support of him.