Tunisian protesters' opinions split outside parliament over President Kais Saied's 'coup'

Tunisian protesters' opinions split outside parliament over President Kais Saied's 'coup'
Tunisian demonstrators outside parliament chanted: 'Down with the coup and no to the invocation of Article 80'.
2 min read
26 July, 2021
Demonstrators with opposing views on President Saied gathered outside Tunisia's parliament [FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty]

Tunisian demonstrators rallying outside the country's parliament are split in their views on a political crisis sparked by what has been widely described as a "coup" by President Kais Saied.

The head of state on Sunday evening suspended the nation's parliament and removed its prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, following a drawn-out stalemate.

Despite tight security outside the Assembly of Representatives, located in Bardo City, near the capital of Tunis, civilians and politicians came out in opposition to Saied's move, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Monday.

Protesters chanted "Down with the coup and no to the invocation of Article 80", the provision of the Tunisian constitution Saied used to justify the dismissal of the premier and his dissolving of the parliament.

"Revolutionaries, revolutionaries, no to colonialism," was another chant.

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Speaker of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi, who also leads the Islamist Ennahda Movement, which has the most number of seats and is a member of the coalition government, was stopped at the legislature's main gate as he tried to enter.

Ghannouchi's car turned back after the army forbade him from making his way into the compound.

Outside parliament there were scuffles between authorities and protesters trying to enter parliament after MPs were locked out by security forces.

Despite the strong anti-Saied turnout on the streets, others supported the president, with their own chants and ululated - a trilling sound commonly used to celebrate good news in the Middle East - to show their backing for his move.

Senior Ennahda figure Noureddine Al-Buhairi informed Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that "what happened is a coup against political legitimacy, and unfortunately there are parties close to Saied that support him in such abuses".

Al-Buhairi continued, saying there will be a "peaceful struggle until the return of political legitimacy".

Tunisians, Abdelhamid, described the president's move as "a coup against political legitimacy, collusion with foreign forces, and an attempt to return to tyranny".

He said "it is necessary to support political legitimacy and reject what happened", calling for parliament to resume.

Abdelmajid Belaid, the brother of assassinated leftist opposition figurehead Chokri Belaid, issued a statement to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed describing what happened as "an embodiment of Tunisian demands that were raised some time back but didn’t resonate".

Another citizen called Mohammed argued in favour of the president's actions, despairing the lack of reforms by the sitting government and saying Tunisians should "take back their sovereignty".

The Qatari foreign ministry on Monday reportedly expressed that Doha "hopes that Tunisian parties will adopt the path of dialogue to overcome the crisis."

The EU and Arab League both called for calm and a return to political normality.