Conflicts & War

Tunisians protest on 2nd anniversary of president’s power grab

Tunis, Jul 25 (EFE).- Several hundred people gathered in this capital for a protest to mark Tuesday’s second anniversary of Tunisian President Kais Saied’s decision to dissolve the democratically elected parliament and assume sweeping powers.

Amid temperatures in excess of 45 C (113 F), Tunisians of all ages and walks of life answered a call from the National Salvation Front, a broad opposition alliance, to join a demonstration in front of the municipal theater in the center of Tunis.

Participants chanted slogans such as “Return to democracy” and “Back to the 2014 constitution,” referring to the charter adopted in the wake of the overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during the 2011 Arab Spring.

A year ago Tuesday, Saied enacted a new constitution concentrating power in the presidency after a referendum boycotted by 70 percent of eligible voters.

“Tunisia has sunk to a worrisome situation, but we haven’t reached the lowest level yet,” National Salvation Front leader Ahmed Nejib Chebbi told the crowd.

Two weeks ago, an appeals court ordered the release of writer Chaima Issa and former government minister Lazhar Akremi, who were among a score of politicians, business-people, and judges arrested in February on charges of “conspiracy against state security.”

But the appellate court rejected motions to free six other detainees who are current of former senior members of opposition parties.

Most of the political prisoners are members of the Islamist party Ennadha, including the speaker of the suspended parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, who was convicted in April of “apology for terrorism.”

Saied’s critics say the arrests are intended to prevent opposition parties from organizing ahead of the next presidential election, scheduled for next year.

Though Article 80 of the 2014 constitution allows the president to declare a state of exception in the face of an “imminent danger,” the provision requires the chief executive to consult with the prime minister and parliament before taking that step, which Saied did not do.

Article 80 likewise permits parliament to be suspended, but only for 30 days.

EFE nrm/dr

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