Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi accuses president of coup

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Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi accused President Kais Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution” on Sunday after Saied said he had frozen parliament and dismissed the government.

“We consider the institutions to be still standing and supporters of Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ghannouchi, who heads the Islamist Ennahda party, said by phone.

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Tunisia’s president dismissed the government and froze parliament on Sunday in a dramatic escalation of a political crisis, prompting huge crowds to fill the capital in his support, but his opponents labeled the moves a coup.

President Kais Saied said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister, in the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 democratic constitution that split powers between president, prime minister and parliament.

Tunisians rose up in revolution in 2011 against decades of autocracy in the first eruption of the Arab Spring, installing a democratic system that ensured new freedoms and has navigated repeated crises, but which has not delivered economic prosperity.

Years of paralysis, corruption, declining state services and growing unemployment had already soured many Tunisians on their political system before the global pandemic hammered the economy last year and COVID-19 infection rates shot up this summer.

Major protests, called by social media activists but not backed by any of the big political parties, took place on Sunday with much of the anger focused on the Islamist Ennahda party, the biggest in parliament.

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