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Tunisia’s president launches new round of dismissals

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo provided by the Tunisian Presidency Facebook Page on July 26, 2021 shows President Kais Saied gesturing among supporters as he walks in Tunis’s central Habib Bourguiba Avenue. (By AFP)

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has sacked the country’s ambassador to the United States and the governor of Sfax province.

It has been the latest in a string of dismissals in the recent past.

On July 25, the president dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days, in a move denounced as a “coup” by the biggest political party Ennahda.

The Tunisian president said at the time that his decision was meant to “save Tunisia, the state, and the Tunisian people,” following mass protests in several cities against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he would assume executive authority “with the help” of a government whose new chief he would appoint himself.

Following his takeover, Saied dismissed defense, justice, economy and communications technology ministers and several top officials, and announced a crackdown against corruption.

On Tuesday, the presidency announced the ousting of Ambassador Nejmeddine Lakhal and Governor Anis Oueslati.

No explanation was given for the latest dismissals.

Tunisia unions call for speedy formation of new government

Nine days after the ousting of the prime minister, the powerful UGTT trade union called on President Saied to rapidly form a new government.

“We call for speeding up the appointment of a head of government” and as “a smaller and harmonious rescue government,” the union said in a statement on Tuesday.

The UGTT, which had backed Saied’s measures, said any delay in forming a new government risked worsening the political vacuum in the country. It would also “make it difficult to emerge from the current social and economic crisis.”

Egypt expresses support for President Saied

Also on Tuesday, the Tunisian president held a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who said President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi backed Saied with “his full support for the historic steps” of the Tunisian leader.

Egypt’s current president spearheaded a military coup that toppled the country’s first ever democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Sisi has since led a crackdown on dissent.

“Egypt and Tunisia are working together to ensure stability not only in the two countries, but also across the region,” Tunisia’s official news agency TAP quoted the Egyptian foreign minister as saying after the meeting.

In the meeting, Saied highlighted “the correlation between Egypt’s and Tunisia’s security and stability,” according to TAP.

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