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Tunisia’s Ghannouchi says parliament in session, defying president

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Tunisia’s parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi on Friday declared the assembly in session and urged lawmakers to resume work, defying President Kais Saied’s suspension of the assembly in a new escalation of the country’s political crisis.

Ghannouchi’s declaration looks set to deepen a dispute over the legitimacy of Saied’s seizure of control of most legislative and executive powers in July, a move the president’s opponents called a coup.

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“The office of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People is in permanent session,” Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, said in a tweet.

Elected in 2019, Saied has been under domestic and international pressure to name a government after his intervention in July, when he dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority.

On Wednesday he named Najla Bouden Romdhane, a geologist with little government experience, as Tunisia’s first woman prime minister.

Last week, he suspended most of the constitution, saying he could rule by decree during an “exceptional” period with no set ending, calling into question democratic gains after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring protests.

Earlier on Friday, security forces surrounded the parliament headquarters, in anticipation of the arrival of lawmakers.

Read more: A woman prime minister in Tunisia