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President dissolves Tunisia’s parliament, deepening the political crisis

Tunisia’s president dissolved parliament on Wednesday after lawmakers voted to block emergency powers he gave himself last year to consolidate his sole hold on government and to end what may be the country’s worst political crisis since the revolution to advertise in 2011.

Last July, amid mass protests against poverty, corruption and the handling of the pandemic, President Kais Saied suspended parliament, sacked his own prime minister and other officials and gave himself extraordinary powers in what his critics denounced as a coup.

But on Wednesday lawmakers held an online meeting, defying Mr Saied’s warning that the meeting was illegal, and a majority voted against his seizure of power, which they say violates the country’s constitution.

Shortly thereafter, at a meeting of his National Security Council, the President said the country was facing “unusual” times.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing an attempted coup today, but it failed,” he said, before announcing that parliament would be dissolved “to protect the government, the institution and the Tunisian people.” His office posted a video of his statement on Facebook.

His government said it would investigate MPs who attended Wednesday’s session.

In 2011, a popular uprising in Tunisia toppled dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power – the first of the region’s protests that became known as the Arab Spring. But Tunisia was the only enduring democracy to emerge from that heady upheaval, and it was a problematic and fragile experiment in popular rule.

Mr Saied, a former constitutional law professor who was seen as above the swamp of politics, was elected in a landslide in 2019. But he became increasingly autocratic, ruling by decree, imprisoning opponents, suspending portions of the constitution, dismissing the Supreme Judicial Council and restricting press freedom.

Political unrest continues to roil the country, fueled by partisan strife and a declining economy. The president has promised to draft a new constitution this year and put it to a referendum, followed by the election of a new parliament.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/world/africa/tunisia-president-dissolve-parliament.html President dissolves Tunisia’s parliament, deepening the political crisis

Brian Ashcraft

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