The sudden move by Tunisia's president to oust its prime minister, its government, and freeze parliament -- with help from the army -- has left Tunisia in turmoil in what opponents are denouncing as a coup.
Those for and against President Kais Saied clashed violently outside of parliament Monday, with both sides appearing to throw stones.
The country’s largest political party – a moderate Islamist organization – has condemned the president’s actions, which also include imposing a nightly curfew until Aug. 27th.
Saied warned that any violent opposition will be met with force. The president’s dramatic moves follow months of deadlock and disputes pitting him against Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and a fragmented parliament as Tunisia descended into an economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mechichi on Monday responded by saying he cannot be a disruptive element, and will hand over responsibility to whomever the president chooses.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. is “concerned” about the situation.
PSAKI: “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, urge calm and support Tunisian efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price later said in a statement that the U.S. has been in contact with Tunisian government officials to stress that solutions to the country's problems should be based on its constitution.
The United Nations is also urging restraint and the European Union is asking all sides to respect Tunisia's constitution.
Saied invoked emergency powers on Sunday night, marching with tens of thousands of his supporters. President since 2019, he campaigned as a political outsider against what he said was a corrupt and incompetent elite.
Saied said the decision to oust Mechichi and suspend parliament for 30 days isn't a coup, but a constitutional and popular response to years of political deadlock and economic crisis, including high unemployment.