Some 2,000 Tunisians demonstrated in the capital on Sunday to protest against President Kais Saied’s recent steps to tighten his grip on power, calling it “a coup.”
Saied, who on July 25 removed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament and granted himself judicial powers, also announced Wednesday “exceptional measures” that allow him to rule by decree.
Protesters waving the Tunisian flag gathered in front of the Tunis municipal theater on Sunday, long before the scheduled start of 1100 GMT, and shouted slogans in defense of the 2014 national charter.
“Constitution, freedom and national dignity,” chanted the mostly male protesters, also demanding “national unity against populism” and calling 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 in place to control access to different areas.
The president took power on July 25 after months of political stalemate and amid the Covid pandemic, which further exacerbated the country’s economic and social difficulties.
Large crowds applauded his movement at the time across the country, but the atmosphere was hostile at the smaller demonstration in Tunis on Sunday.
Some shouted “Out, out,” repeating the slogan of the protests that began in December 2010 and culminated in the resignation of Tunisian Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011 after 24 years in power.
Around 20 Tunisian and global human rights groups condemned Saied’s “takeover” on Saturday, calling it “a first step towards authoritarianism.”
Signatories to the declaration include the Tunis section of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the Tunisian Network for Transitional Justice.