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Tunisian parties form coalition to counter President Saied's seizure of governing powers

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)
Ghazi Chaouachi, of Tunisia’s Democratic Current party, speaks during a press conference in Tunis, September 28, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Four political parties in Tunisia have announced a coalition to oppose President Kais Saied’s move to seize governing powers, warning that his controversial moves could stoke violence.

At a press conference in the capital Tunis on Tuesday, the Democratic Current party, the Ettakatol (FDTL), the Republican Party, and the Afek Tounes announced the formation of the coalition. The political parties urged the president to reverse what they called his power grab.

The secretary-general of the Democratic Current, Ghazi Chaouachi, whose party has 21 seats in the now-frozen parliament, said the objective of the coalition is to express the refusal of the monopolization of power.

Chaouachi, whose party had backed Saied’s July 25 moves, warned that unless the president changes course, the North African country “risks sliding into violence” or even “civil war.”

“We believed the president had good intentions, (but) with the stroke of a pen he installed one-man rule,” said Chaouachi.

Accusing Saied of “an attack on constitutional institutions,” Chaouachi said the parties had united “to defend democracy and prevent one-man rule.”

He further said Tunisia is witnessing a dangerous period that may lead to the collapse of the state and the end of democratic transitions.

He said they would use “all legal and peaceful means of pressure and activism to defend democracy and the gains of the 2011 revolution.”

Fadhel Abdelkefi, a former minister whose party, the Afek Tounes, has two seats in the frozen assembly, warned that the latest crises could lead to disaster for Tunisia’s already suffering economy.

Issam Chebbi of the Al Jomhouri party accused Saied of “exploiting” Tunisia’s multiple crises to “grab power.”

“We totally reject this and call on him to reverse his decisions,” he said.

All the four parties said they were coordinating to protect the country’s democratic gains and to pressure Saied to reverse course.

At the weekend, thousands of protesters rallied in the Tunisian capital to voice their anger at President Saied’s seizure of governing powers, calling on him to resign and demanding the constitution be respected.

Saied dispensed with much of the 2014 constitution last week, granting himself the power to rule, two months after he sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended the parliament and assumed executive power. His opponents have condemned the move as a coup.

Saied has defended his controversial move, saying it was necessary to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation, and the poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He has promised to establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.”

Tunisia’s largest and the powerful political party, Ennahda, has already called for people to stay together and defend democracy in “a tireless, peaceful struggle.” More than 100 prominent officials of the party resigned on Saturday in protest at Saied’s performance.

Years of paralysis, corruption, declining state services and growing unemployment had agitated many Tunisians on their political system before the COVID-19 pandemic smashed the economy last year and infection rates surged this summer.


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