Tunisia: Sacked PM says will hand over responsibility

Tunisian president accused of ‘coup’ after he sacks prime minister amid COVID crisis and faltering economy.

Police officers stand guard as supporters of Tunisia's president, Kais Saied, gather outside the parliament building in Tunis [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]
  • Dismissed Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi says he cannot be a disruptive element, and will hand responsibility to whomever the president chooses.
  • Street clashes erupt outside army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied removed the prime minister and suspended parliament
  • Troops blocked parliamentary speaker and Ennahdha party leader Rached Ghannouchi from entering the building.

Here are the latest updates:

US tells Tunisian officials solutions should follow constitution

The United States has been in contact with Tunisian government officials to stress that solutions to the country’s political and economic problems should be based on its constitution, and the principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

“We have been clear in urging all parties to avoid taking any actions that could stifle democratic discourse or lead to violence,” said Price.

“We are particularly troubled by reports that media offices have been closed and urge scrupulous respect for freedom of expression and other civil rights.Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains. The United States will continue to stand on the side of Tunisia’s democracy,” he added.

Tunisia PM says will hand responsibility to whomever president chooses

Dismissed Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he cannot be a disruptive element, and he will hand the responsibility to whomever the president chooses, in a step that may ease the North African country’s tough political crisis.

“In order to preserve the safety of all Tunisians, I declare that I align myself, as I have always, by the side of our people, and declare that I will not take up any position or responsibility in the state,” said Mechichi in a statement on Facebook.

Mechichi added in statement that he is ready to serve Tunisia from any location.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi was dismissed by President Kais Saie [File: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP]

An economic recipe for unrest ignites in Tunisia

A lack of opportunity, especially for young people. Punishing debt. A broken social contract. Pandemic pressures making it all so much worse.

This economic recipe is nourishing social and political unrest throughout the world this year. South Africa experienced it earlier this month. Cuba, too. Now it’s Tunisia’s turn.

Read more here.

A police officer gestures as supporters of Tunisia’s biggest political party, Ennahda, in Tunis [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Tunisian president replies to coup denunciation

Tunisian President Kais Saied said in a video posted by the presidency to those who describe his latest decisions as a coup to “revise your constitutional lessons” and said “we do not have any problems with businessmen.”

Saied added that his decisions came in line with article no. 80 in the constitution.

Saied also called on Tunisians to remain calm and not to respond to any provocations asking them to take to the streets, saying “the most danger a nation can face is internal explosion.”

Tunisian President Kais Saied called on Tunisians to remain calm and not to respond to any provocations [File: Karim Jaafar/AFP]

Tunisian president orders night curfew

Tunisian President Kais Saied prohibited the movement of people and vehicles from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m., starting Monday and lasting until Aug. 27, with the exception of urgent health cases and night workers, the presidency said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The presidential order also prohibited the movement of people and vehicles between cities outside times of curfew, except to fulfill basic needs or for urgent health reasons.

It also banned the gathering of more than three people on public roads or in public squares.

Saudi Arabia supports measures achieving stability

Saudi Arabia’s and Tunisia’s foreign ministers spoke on phone and discussed the current situation in Tunisia, Saudi state news agency (SPA) said.

The Saudi foreign minister has also stressed the kingdom’s keenness on the security and stability of Tunisia, and supports everything that would achieve this.

White House voices concern over developments

Speaking from Washington DC, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the United States government was concerned about the developments in Tunisia.

“We are in touch at a senior level from both the White House and the State Department with Tunisian leaders to learn more about the situation,” said Psaki. “We urge calm and support Tunisian efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles.”

“There have been a lot of developments even over the last 24 hours. we will look to the State Department to conduct a legal analysis before making a determination [on whether it’s a coup],” she added.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki urged calm in Tunisia [Flie: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

‘Politics failed’ in Tunisia, say observers

Commenting on the events, William Lawrence, from the American University in Washington DC said that Tunisian politics has failed to produce the constitutional course.

“There is no recourse constitutionally to review the President’s actions – which if you look at that article closely, do not allow him to do what he’s doing and certainly not the ways doing it,” said Lawrence.

“There’s no mention of removing immunity for parliamentarians, there’s no mention of a takeover a full executive authority, and firing of ministers all that is improvisation by the President, who is a constitutional expert,” he added.

Lawrence explained that while the president is often portrayed as a constitutional scholar of some note, but in all of his meetings today, people are coming in explaining the Constitution.

Kuwaiti, Tunisian foreign ministers discuss developments

Tunisia’s foreign minister phoned his Kuwaiti counterpart to brief him on developments in Tunisia, Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Tunisia’s young democracy faces its worst crisis in a decade after President Kais Saied ousted the government and suspended parliament with help from the army, a move condemned as a coup by the main parties including Islamists.

‘A coup no doubt’, says former president

Speaking from Paris, Tunisia’s former president, Mouncef Marzouki condemned the current president, Kais Saied’s, move as a clear “coup”.

“There is no doubt about the fact that it’s coup because the president himself said I have all the powers,” said Marzouki. “The main idea we have when writing the constitution is to say that the President is no longer the guy who has all the power.”

“Tunisia was supposed to be a success story in the Arab world. But it’s no longer a success story. But let me remind you that we have this political crisis amidst the worst health crisis that we have ever had in Tunisia,” he added.

Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki condemns Saeib’s move as a coup [File: Aimen Zine/AP]

UN urges restraint in Tunisia, says spokesperson

The United Nations called on all parties in Tunisia “to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and ensure that the situation remains calm,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“All disputes and disagreements should be resolved through dialogue,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said after Tunisian President Kais Saied ousted the government and froze parliament with help from the army.

Haq declined to comment on whether the United Nations viewed the situation in Tunisia as a coup or not.

President’s removal of defence minister sign of insecurity: Observers

Commenting on the latest events from Doha, Al Jazeera’s Mohammad Vall, said that the Tunisia’s President Kais Saied’s decision to replace the defense and justice ministers “gives the impression that he is in charge and moving forward.”

“But replacing a defense minister at this time of crisis when the army is out on the streets is also sign that something is wrong. It’s at least a sign of the president being gravely concerned about the situation, and about his own safety with regards to the military,” said Vall.

“The president is unhappy with him [the defence minister] or he’s afraid of him – a sign that the president is very much concerned about the continuity of his presidency and about the army staying on his on his side,” he explained.

Arab League urges Tunisia to quickly overcome turbulence

The Arab League, in a phone call with Tunisia’s foreign minister, called for a return to stability and calm in the country after the president’s abrupt removal of the government pitched it into turmoil.

An Arab League statement said the Tunisian foreign minister fully briefed its secretary general on the situation in Tunisia and added: “The…League urges Tunisia to quickly get through the current turbulent phase, restore stability and calm and the state’s ability to work effectively to respond to the aspirations and requirements of the people.”

Security forces take security measures around parliament building as supporters and opponents of coup gather in front of parliament building [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

Calls for a national coalition government

Speaking from the capital, Tunis, journalist Ahmed Ellali said that several opposition voices were calling for a national coalition government to be formed. He said they believed it to be the only solution to the political crisis.

“There are calls from the labor union for the army to remain in a neutral position. They demand that the president provide constitutional guarantees following his decision,” said Ellali.

“The international syndicate of Tunisian journalists has released another statement condemning what happened in the Al Jazeera bureau. It warned the president of further breaching the freedom of expression,” he added.

Tunisia’s president sacks defence minister, says presidency

Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the defence minister and the acting justice minister, a day after ousting the prime minister and suspending parliament.

A statement from the presidency announced the dismissals of Defence Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and acting justice minister Hasna Ben Slimane, who is also government spokeswoman.

Protesters gesture as Tunisian military forces guard the area around the parliament building in the capital Tunis [Khaled Nasraoui/EPA]

Al Jazeera condemns raid by Tunisian security forces on bureau

In reaction to Tunisian security forces’ raid on Al Jazeera Media Network’s office in Tunis and the expulsion of its journalists, the Doha-based network issued a statement of condemnation.

“Al Jazeera considers this action by the Tunisian authorities as a troubling escalation and fears it will impede fair and objective coverage of unfolding events in the country,” said the statement.

“Al Jazeera calls on the Tunisian authorities to allow its journalists to operate unhindered and be allowed to practice their profession without fear or intimidation,” it added.

“The Network values the solidarity of human rights and media organisations for their condemnation of these actions against Al Jazeera’s bureau in Tunisia. In a world in which the media and journalists face increasing threats, Al Jazeera views this as an attack on press freedom as a whole.”

Read more here.

A police officer pushes back supporters of Tunisia’s biggest political party, Ennahda, in Tunis [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Reporters without borders denounces closure of Al Jazeera’s office

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it “condemns the storming of Al Jazeera’s office in Tunisia and the media’s involvement in political conflicts.”

World reacts to Tunisia’s political turmoil

Tunisian President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend parliament and dismiss the prime minister was condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals. Foreign governments have also voiced concern.

Here are some reactions from around the world to the shock announcement.

Read more here.

Protesters face Tunisian police officers during a demonstration in Tunis [Hassene Dridi/AP]

Faultlines re-open as president’s supporters, opponents clash

Separated by metal barriers set up by police, hundreds of people gathered outside Tunisia’s parliament building under a burning to pelt their political rivals with stones, bottles and eggs.

Hundreds of police stood to separate the supporters and opponents of Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied.

“We are in one valley. They are in another valley. They only care for their party. We only care for the country… that is why they rose up,” said Ahmed Hafian, a supporter of Saied.

Across the barrier, a 30-year-old woman who gave only her first name Ghofrane, chanted “No to the coup” and accuse Saied’s supporters of violence.

“We want legitimacy, consensus and unity,” she said.

Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis [File: Fethi Belaid/AFP]

EU calls on all Tunisian actors to respect constitution

The European Union urged all political actors in Tunisia to respect the country’s constitution and avoid violence.

“We are closely following the latest developments in Tunisia,” a spokeswoman for the European Commission said.

“We call on all Tunisian actors to respect the Constitution, its institutions and the rule of law. We also call on them to remain calm and to avoid any resort to violence in order to preserve the stability of the country,” she said.

Tunisian president says will replace defence, justice ministers

Tunisian President Kais Saied said he will replace the defence and justice ministers.

President Kais Saied gesturing among supports he walks protected by security in Tunis’s central Habib Bourguiba Avenue [AFP]

Walks, talks ‘like a coup’: MENA expert says

Max Gallien, a political scientist specialising in the MENA region at the University of Sussex, said the move “does not seem to be backed entirely by Article 80 of the constitution”.

“It walks like a coup, it talks like a coup, and in many ways it has that appearance,” Gallien told Al Jazeera, adding that it is a situation that is still playing out.

One of the important things to watch for is how key institutional actors, including parliament, security forces, and unions are going to react to the developments, Gallien said.

“A constitutional court is kind of the overarching issue here and the overarching political failure of Tunisia’s political class,” he added.

Security forces take security measures as crowds gather in front of parliament building in Tunis, Tunisia [Nacer Talel/Anadolu]

‘Unclear situation’: Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall says

Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, who has extensively reported on Tunisia, said that the current situation is “very unclear”, even to people inside the country.

The fact that no one is certain of the whereabouts of the president or the prime minister has added to the confusion.

Those are “huge questions” that affect the overall morale, public opinion, and the “general feelings inside Tunisia itself,” Vall said.

Since the Arab Spring, there has been a “scene of fragmentation” he said.

“Many players were unable to sit together for a long time and to organise politics in an way that could serve the country, and people are frustrated with the situation.”

A supporter of Tunisia’s biggest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, scuffles with a police officer near the parliament building in Tunis, Tunisia [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

World reacts to Tunisia political turmoil

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the latest development in Tunisia and called for the restoration of “democratic legitimacy”.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry, Maria Adebahr, told reporters that Germany hoped Tunisia would return “as soon as possible to constitutional order”.

For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, said: “We hope that nothing will threaten the stability and security of the people of that country.”

Protesters stand outside parliament building in Tunis, Tunisia [Nacer Talel/Anadolu]

Police storm Al Jazeera office in Tunis

Tunisian police has stormed Al Jazeera’s bureau in the capital Tunis, expelling all the staff, after President Kais Saied late on Sunday ousted the government in a move his foes called a coup.

At least 20 plain-clothed police officers entered the office on Monday, Al Jazeera journalists in Tunis reported, saying the officers did not have warrants for the raid.

“We did not receive any prior notice of the eviction of our office by the security forces,” Lotfi Hajji, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Tunisia, said.

Security forces involved in the raid said they were carrying out instructions from the country’s judiciary and asked all journalists to leave.

Reporters said they were ordered by security officers to turn off their phones and were not allowed back into the building to retrieve their personal belongs. The officers confiscated the keys to the office.

Read more here.

Suspension ‘invalid’

Tunisia’s Ennahdha party said that it considers Parliament to be in continuous session, denouncing as “invalid” President Saied’s decision.

Army deployed

Tunisian military has been deployed to the government palace in the Kasbah in Tunis and stopped government workers from entering the building, several of them said.

Security forces take security measures around parliament building in Tunis, Tunisia [Nacer Talel/Anadolu]

Tunisian president assigns ally to oversee interior ministry

Tunisian President Saied assigned Khaled Yahyaoui, director-general of the presidential security unit, to supervise the Ministry of Interior after dismissing the government, two security sources said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies