Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the Prime Minister and suspended Parliament amid uprisings against his government. It seems like covid-19 reveals all the shortcomings by certain governments and causing a rebellious act by the public as a response to their government’s failure to cater to the people’s welfare. Tunisia became the latest country to experience such protests after Cuba also witnessed the same situation. Such a world crisis calls for intense government intervention, but some leaders fail the people; hence the public gets frustrated and revolts.
The Tunisians attacked President Saied and his administration for how they handled the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in the country. The protestors were also angry due to the current economic situation, which has enabled poverty to reach them and social turmoil experienced in many communities. On Sunday, thousands of citizens filled the streets demonstrating displeasure against Saied’sSaied’s governance, and the protests quickly turned into violent parades of marauding crowds. Buildings were set on fire, including the ruling party’s headquarters in the city of Tozeur. In response to such acts of violence, president Saied alluded to deploying military personnel if the violent protests continued.
Monday morning after the protests, he sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Mechichi was also at the center of attention as the rioters pinpointed him for slacking on his duties together with the moderate Islamists Ennahda. Mr. Mechichi noted how he was willing to hand over power to any successor chosen by the president because he does not want to become a “disruptive element,” especially when it comes to the development and governance of his country.
From the protestors’ point of view, Saied has failed to handle covid-19, with cases continuing to surge. Last week, the country recorded 300 deaths in 24 hours. Tunisia is included among countries with the highest deaths per capita globally, so that the public might be justified in revolting. More so, with everyone pinning their hopes on vaccines, Tunisia is also lagging in the vaccination programs, with only 7% of the total population estimated around 11.7 million vaccinated. Efforts to speed up vaccination programs by jabbing all citizens over 18 years yielded no resources after experiencing vaccines shortage, stampedes, and violence at the vaccination centers. Through all these fruitless efforts, more deaths were incurred, and the health minister was fired.
The sacking of PM Mechichi has been linked to a power-grabbing stance by Saied as political analysts believe that he is eliminating the competition. Reports reveal how Saied and Mechichi have been clashing since way back, and now Saied has succeeded in removing his challenger. Saied’s actions further cement this on Monday after dismissing Mechichi. An attack was carried out at Al Jazeera’sJazeera’s establishments in Tunis by security forces because the media house is accused of being sympathetic to Ennahda. The speaker of Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, who leads Ennahda, was blocked from entering into the legislature by Saied’sSaied’s supporters. On that same day, Saied’sSaied’s loyalists were in violent exchange with opponents outside the legislature, barricaded by troops. Ghannouchi and his supporters demonstrated against Saied’sSaied’s followers in a sit-down protest. Mechichi has a large parliament backup with a party that has many seats, and he is a significant threat to the independently elected president. Ennahda earns the right to nominate a PM because it is the largest party in Parliament [Source].
President Saied defended the dismissal of Mechichi and suspension of Parliament for 30 days as constitutional, although the legality of such authoritative decisions is not clear even to the lawmakers. He alluded to the new ruling system and a new PM to be announced [Source]. The US, UN, and EU have urged him to be open for dialogue in solving the problems faced by his country and that they should desist from any violent acts.
Currently, Saied is ruling without a parliament or PM, and some might suggest that it is an oppressive stance that can be linked to “dictatorship.” But in his defense, he said, “We have taken these decisions… until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state.” He cited Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution, which states that in the ” event of the imminent danger threatening the nation’s institutions … the President of the Republic may take any measure necessitated by the exceptional circumstances.” Hence, he deemed it necessary to make such moves in protecting his country [Source].
Whether his decisions are backed up by law or grabbing power, the country continues to bleed due to covid’s effects, so president Saied might need to prioritize his checklist and put human life first. But his decisions put a dent in the country’s democracy policies, especially if other government officials cannot vouch for him and lawmakers fail to defend him on a constitutional level. This is a typical situation in a country experiencing political instability where the law is ignored for personal gains.