Washington, Jul 26 (EFE).- The United States government on Monday said it has not yet determined whether Tunisian President Kais Saied’s move to relieve the prime minister of his position and suspend Parliament constitutes a coup.
In a press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration is “concerned about the developments in Tunisia.”
“A determination about a coup is a legal determination, and we would look to the State Department to conduct a legal analysis before making a determination. So there hasn’t been a conclusion on that front,” Psaki said.
Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday and announced that he would be taking over executive authority with the assistance of a new premier.
On Monday, he also sacked Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and acting Justice Minister Hasna Ben Slimane and ordered administrative and finance officials at each ministry to carry out pending functions until a new Cabinet is appointed, the presidency said in a statement.
Parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi of the moderate-Islamist Ennahda party, which had backed Mechichi, met virtually with deputies for the first time after a decision they decried as a “serious violation of the constitution.”
Tunisia’s army stopped Ghannouchi and several lawmakers from entering the Parliament building early Monday morning.
Security forces stormed the office of news broadcaster Al Jazeera in the capital Tunis, expelled its employees and ordered it to shut down, according to the Qatar-based channel.
Supporters of the president and followers of Ennahda gathered outside the Parliament building and threw stones at each other, leaving several injured.
In a statement, Ennahda called on citizens to protest against Saied’s move, which the country’s largest political party described as a “coup against the revolution.”
“This is a blow against Tunisian democracy and its constitution. Tunisia is the only success story of the Arab Spring and this story does not end there,” the statement said.
But Mechichi, who like Saied is a political independent, said late Monday in a letter posted on social media that he accepts his dismissal and will assist with a “peaceful transfer of power.”
Thousands of Tunisians took to streets to celebrate Saied’s move, which also included lifting the immunity of all members of Parliament.
The announcement by Saied, an ex-law professor who took office in 2019, came after violent protests had broken out on Sunday in several parts of the country to demand the government resign and the Parliament be dissolved amid deepening political, health and economic woes.
During the demonstrations, several offices of the Ennahda party were attacked and set on fire.
The Tunisian revolution of late 2010 and early 2011 toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and served as a trigger for the wider Arab Spring revolts. EFE