Tunisia’s President has suspended parliament and fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi in a move condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but which others greeted with celebrations on the streets. In a statement late on Sunday, President Kais Saied invoked the constitution to dismiss Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and decree a freeze of the parliament for a period of 30 days, saying he would govern alongside a new premier. The move came after a day of protest against the government and the biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, following a spike in COVID-19 cases and growing anger over chronic political dysfunction and economic malaise. President Kais Saied, who was elected in 2019, announced he was taking over.
His supporters erupted in celebration, but opponents in parliament immediately accused him of staging a coup. Clashes among rival groups continued on Monday.
The supporters threw stones at each other outside the legislature, which has been barricaded by security forces, who have also prevented workers from entering some government buildings.
It is the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between the president, Prime minister, and parliament.
“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery, and robbery of the rights of the people” he said in the statement.
“I warn any who thing of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he added.
Mr. Saied, has had a long-standing feud with the man he has removed, prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, Mr. Mechichi has the backing of the largest party in parliament, Ennahda.