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Tunisians in largest rally against president’s ‘coup’

1. Tunisia
Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest in Tunisia’s capital Tunis on September 26, 2021, against President Kais Saied’s recent steps to tighten his grip on power. (Photo: AFP)
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TUNIS — About 2,000 Tunisians rallied in their capital on Sunday to protest President Kais Saied’s steps to tighten his grip on power which they labelled “a coup d’état”.اضافة اعلان

It was the largest demonstration since Saied on July 25 sacked prime minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament and granted himself judicial powers, a move he followed up on Wednesday by announcing “exceptional measures” that allow him to rule by decree.

Protesters waving the red and white Tunisian flag gathered outside the municipal theatre in Tunis, well before the demonstration’s start, and shouted slogans in defense of the 2014 national charter.

“Constitution, freedom and national dignity,” chanted the demonstrators. They also demanded “national unity against populism” and called for the “end of the Kais Saied regime”. 

Security forces were deployed in large numbers along Bourguiba Avenue, which runs through the heart of the capital, with armored cars, police vans and metal barriers set up to control access to different areas.

The president made his power grab after months of political stalemate and during the COVID-19 pandemic which further aggravated the country’s economic and social difficulties.

Large crowds cheered his move all over the country at the time, but the mood was hostile at the smaller demonstration in Tunis on Sunday.

Some shouted “Get out, get out”, repeating the slogan of protests that started in December 2010 and culminated in the resignation of Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011 after 23 years in power. 

The protest came after around 20 global and Tunisian human rights groups on Saturday condemned Saied’s “power grab” and labelled it “a first step towards authoritarianism”.

Signatories to the statement included Amnesty International’s Tunisia section, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Tunisian Network for Transitional Justice.

It was the latest warning from civil society groups of a drift away from democracy.

The speaker of Tunisia’s parliament Rached Ghannouchi on Thursday called for “peaceful struggle” against a return to “absolute one-man rule”.

A day later the country’s powerful UGTT trade union confederation warned of threats to the country’s democracy.

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