Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has said he will withdraw the diplomatic passport of one of his predecessors, Moncef Marzouki, after the latter urged France to end its support for the North African country under the former’s leadership.
Saied is under strong international pressure, especially from Western powers, to announce a clear road map for a return to constitutional politics after seizing a wide range of powers in late July.
He unveiled a new government on Monday, but gave no indication that he was ready to relinquish control.
Last week, in a speech widely shared online, France-based Marzouki, who , called on the French authorities “not to help the dictatorial regime in Tunisia”.
Addressing anti-Saied demonstrators in Paris on Saturday, Marzouki said the French government should “reject any support for this regime and this man who has plotted against the revolution and abolished the constitution”.
Saied on Thursday asked the justice minister to open an investigation into allegations that Marzouki had conspired against state security.
“I will withdraw his diplomatic passport because he is among the enemies of Tunisia,” Saied said, referring to Marzouki, but without naming him. “He cannot use this privilege to visit capitals and damage Tunisian interests.
“Tunisia is a free and independent state and there can be no interference in its affairs,” he added at the first meeting of the new cabinet.
“Some have used refuge abroad to attack Tunisian interests.”
In response to Saied’s comments, Marzouki told Al Jazeera in Paris: “What happened today is the biggest evidence that we have entered the stage of absolute tyranny, and evidence that this man has become the greatest danger to the Tunisian state and to all people. Therefore, a political confrontation with him is no longer possible.”
A presidency statement said he had informed the United States ambassador of Tunisia’s “dissatisfaction” that the House Foreign Affairs Committee was due to discuss Tunisia at a hearing called “Examining the State of Democracy and Next Steps for U.S. Policy”.
The US has been important to Tunisia since its 2011 revolution in providing security assistance and working with other major donors to support public finances.
Along with other members of the G7 group of advanced economies, which include France, it has urged Saied to return to a constitutional order in which an elected parliament plays a significant role.
Thousands protested in the capital, Tunis, last week against Saied’s seizure of almost total power, raising fears of further unrest.
His intervention followed years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, but it has cast into doubt the democratic gains made by Tunisians during the revolution that triggered the Arab Spring uprisings.