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Tunisians Protest Saied's Power Grab

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, Sept. 26, 2021.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Tunisian capital, Tunis, Sunday to protest President Kais Saied’s recent decrees bolstering the already near-total power he granted himself two months ago.

Protesters demanded the country’s constitution be respected and parliament reinstated.

In July, Saied sacked the country’s prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority, saying it was because of a national emergency.

Some of those participating in Sunday’s protest were lawmakers from the Islamist party Ennahdha, the most powerful political party in Tunisia, which had previously supported Saied.

“Today we went out carrying the flag of Tunisia and the constitution of the second republic, which most of the Tunisian people voted for," said Jamila Jouini, Ennahda Party Lawmaker. "There is no way to speak on behalf of the Tunisian people. This is the constitution of an elected Constituent Assembly and all Tunisian people participated in writing it.”

Saied’s new decrees include the continuing suspension of parliament’s powers, the suspension of all lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and a freeze on lawmakers’ salaries. Saied’s critics are calling his actions a coup.

The protest comes amid a deep political crisis in Tunisia. On Saturday more than 100 Ennahdha officials announced their resignations to protest the choices of the movement’s leadership, with one senior lawmaker quoting the “impossibility of reforming the party from the inside.”