Tunisian president accused of ‘coup’ after he sacks prime minister amid COVID crisis and faltering economy.
Tunisian President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend parliament and dismiss the prime minister sparked protests at home where the biggest political party decried it as a “coup”.
The decision 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 Sunday’s shock announcement.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the latest development and called for the restoration of “democratic legitimacy” in the country.
“The preservation of Tunisia’s democratic achievements, which is a success story in terms of the democratic process conducted in line with the expectations of people in the region, is of great importance for the region as well as for Tunisia,” the ministry said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted: “We reject the suspension of the democratic process and the disregard of the people’s democratic will in friendly and brotherly Tunisia.
“We condemn initiatives that lack constitutional legitimacy and public support. We believe Tunisia democracy will emerge stronger from this process.”
France called for respect of the rule of law in Tunisia as quickly as possible and called on all political parties to refrain from violence.
Doha called on all parties in Tunisia’s political crisis to avoid escalation and move towards dialogue, the state-run Qatar News Agency said.
“Qatar hopes that Tunisian parties will adopt the path of dialogue to overcome the crisis,” QNA cited a foreign ministry statement as saying.
The Arab League, in a phone call with Tunisia’s foreign minister called for a return to stability and calm in the country.
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.”
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US was “concerned” regarding the situation in Tunisia at a time when “authorities are seeking to stabilise their economy, confront a resurgence in the COVID 19 pandemic”.
“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.”
“We urge calm and support Tunisian efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles … we will look to the State Department to conduct a legal analysis before making a determination [on whether it’s a coup].”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stressed “the kingdom’s keenness on the security, stability and prosperity of Tunisia”, during a phone call with his Tunisian counterpart.
A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, Maria Adebahr, told reporters that Germany hoped Tunisia would return “as soon as possible to constitutional order”.
“Democracy has taken roots in Tunisia since 2011”, Adebahr said, referring to the year of the popular revolution that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Germany was “very worried”, she said, adding, however: “We don’t want to speak of a coup d’etat.”
“It is important to return to constitutional order as quickly as possible,” Adebahr said.
“We will certainly try to discuss (the situation) with the Tunisian ambassador in Berlin, and our ambassador in Tunis is ready to engage in discussions.”
The United Nations
The United Nations called on all parties in Tunisia “to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and ensure that the situation remains calm”.
“All disputes and disagreements should be resolved through dialogue,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
Haq declined to comment on whether the United Nations viewed the situation in Tunisia as a coup or not.
Human rights group Amnesty International urged Saied to “publicly commit to respecting and protecting human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.
It also denounced as “outrageous” Monday’s forced closure of television network Al Jazeera’s Tunis bureau, calling it a “deeply worrying precedent signalling that human rights are in danger”.
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.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, in brief comments, said Russia was monitoring developments in Tunisia.
“We hope that nothing will threaten the stability and security of the people of that country,” he told reporters at a daily phone briefing.
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to continue to help Tunisia cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, achieve a “job-rich” recovery and restore finances to a sustainable footing, a spokesperson said on Monday.
“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation in Tunisia,” the spokesperson said.
“Tunisia continues to face extraordinary socio-economic pressures, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing tragic loss of life, and Tunisian’s unmet aspirations for higher, job-rich, and inclusive growth.”
The North African country is seeking a three-year $4-billion loan to help stabilise its balance of payments position after its current account deficit widened to 7.1 percent of GDP last year.