Tunisian president dismisses prime minister, freezes parliament

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Tunisia’s president froze parliament and fired the prime minister on Sunday, saying he would assume executive control along with a new prime minister, Reuters reported.

The announcement follows protests that occurred last week over Tunisia’s economic situation and the pandemic’s effects on the country. President Kais Saied said that a new prime minister would be chosen within hours and parliament members’ immunity would be lifted in an effort to placate the country, The Associated Press reported.

“We have taken these decisions … until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state,” Saied said in a speech on Sunday, following an emergency security meeting he attended regarding the demonstrations, according to the AP.

Though many protesters erupted in cheers and took to the streets to celebrate, Saied made it clear during his speech that the country would respond if the protesters became violent on Sunday night.

“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons… and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” Saied said, according to Reuters.

The party leader of the Islamist Ennahda, which is the biggest party in the country’s parliament, told Reuters during a phone call that the recent announcement by the Tunisian president was “a coup against the revolution and constitution.”

The party leader and parliament speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, added: “We consider the institutions still standing, and the supporters of the Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” according to Reuters.

The announcement comes as corruption, rising levels of unemployment and political paralysis have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the country has seen a surge in new cases over the summer and has negatively contributed to the country’s economic situation, Reuters noted.

According to data from John Hopkins University, only seven percent of the country is fully vaccinated, and new cases have been reported in the thousands.

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