Tunisians call for ouster of Saudi-allied President Kais Saied

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)
A file photo of President Kais Saied of Tunisia. (By AFP)

Tunisians have called for free and fair elections to remove Saudi-allied President Kais Saied, who is accused of staging a coup last year.

Samir Dilou, a member of Tunisia's Salvation Front, told a local radio station on Monday that the front wants the naming of an alternative for Kais Saied “by the Tunisian elite in fair and genuine elections and not in the December 17’s elections.”

He condemned the “individual rule” adopted by the president, saying he granted himself “pharaonic powers.”

Dilou also vowed that the front would continue its “peaceful struggle” against the regime of Saied, which he blamed for the country’s crises.

Meanwhile, the Free Constitutional Party announced that it filed a complaint with a Tunisian court to halt the December 17 elections.

It said in a statement that the complaint came as “the electoral commission did not receive any nomination in seven out of 161 constituencies”, describing that as “a serious precedent that acknowledges the lack of the citizens’ involvement” in the electoral process.

Shahid Observatory expected a low turnout in the upcoming legislative elections.

Saied, a former law professor who took office in 2019, moved to rule by decree after shutting down parliament last year and later expanded his powers with a new constitution passed in the July referendum.

His opponents say his actions have undermined the democracy secured through a 2011 revolution that ousted former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the Arab spring.

Tunisians are struggling to make ends meet as a crisis in state finances has contributed to shortages of subsidized goods, including petrol, sugar and milk on top of years of economic malaise and entrenched unemployment.

The president, however, has blamed hoarders and speculators for the shortages, saying the measures by his government were needed to save Tunisia from years of crisis.

Critics say Saied has moved Tunisia, which faces a grinding economic crisis, down a dangerous path back toward autocracy.

Amid the political crisis, Saudi Arabia expressed its firm support for the Tunisian President.

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