Tunisian president’s feud with party elites drove him to seize reins of power By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, head of the average Islamist Ennahda, speaks to supporters throughout a rally in opposition to President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia February 27, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photograph


By Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall

TUNIS (Reuters) – As he was pushed to an urgently scheduled nationwide safety assembly with the president, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi was unable to succeed in the telephones of senior officers to debate the approaching dialog.

Solely when he arrived on the presidential palace in Carthage did Mechichi study the reality: President Kais Saied was invoking emergency powers to dismiss him, freeze parliament and declare government authority. The officers he had tried to succeed in have been already there.

His strikes, labelled a coup by opponents, have left Tunisians and overseas states questioning about the way forward for the nation whose 2011 revolution impressed the Arab Spring after which adopted a democratic path unmatched by its friends.

“That is the primary time in a very long time that I do not see issues transferring in a constructive route,” stated Safwan al-Misri of Columbia College and the writer of a e-book on Tunisia.

Interviews with Tunisian officers and others near main gamers within the disaster present how feuding over the political system culminated in Saied’s intervention.

The disaster was set in practice by a 2019 election by which voters rejected the institution by selecting Saied, an anti-corruption unbiased, and returning a deeply fragmented parliament.

Saied feuded with Mechichi and Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi. As their quarrel encompassed management of the safety forces – the second, one political supply stated, that the president realised he needed to act.

“Saied was certain the military would stand with him,” stated a supply near the president.

Saied has supplied no clear roadmap however he’s extensively anticipated to enshrine a presidential system in a brand new structure, ending years of tussling between rival branches of state.

Nonetheless, aside from taking up safety establishments and different key ministries, Saied didn’t seem effectively ready, stated political scientist Mohammed Dhia-Hammami.

“He’s a strongman in a weak place,” he stated.


Because the 2019 election approached after years of financial stagnation, established gamers corresponding to Ghannouchi’s average Islamist Ennahda occasion have been unpopular.

The unstable authorities that lastly emerged from it collapsed inside months and Saied nominated Mechichi as premier. They rapidly fell out over Mechichi’s selection of coalition companions.

“The president instructed us he hated treachery. And treachery had come from these closest to him,” a senior politician near Saied stated.

Mechichi didn’t reply to efforts by Reuters to contact him by cellphone and textual content message.

In January, after a dispute over a reshuffle, Mechichi stated he would function inside minister – placing himself on the centre of the safety equipment. It meant reconciliation with the president was not possible, two sources near Saied stated, and the pair didn’t meet for 2 months.

In April, Saied stated Inside Ministry forces belonged beneath his authority. Mechichi responded by appointing an Ennahda ally to move intelligence.

At a gathering with two political events, Saied stated it confirmed “Mechichi was there solely to serve the pursuits of his allies”, a type of current stated.

“Evidently Saied then determined to take away Mechichi and convey down his authorities,” the supply stated.


In the meantime the coronavirus pandemic was worsening and the federal government response faltered. Each Mechichi and Ghannouchi, who’s 80, fell sick.

On Sunday July 25, Ghannouchi’s first day at work after two weeks of sickness, protests in a number of cities concerned assaults on Ennahda places of work – violence Saied later cited in declaring emergency powers.

The president referred to as Ghannouchi at about 5 p.m., a supply near the Ennahda chief stated. The structure required session with the parliament speaker and prime minister.

Saied stated he did this. However Ennahda sources stated he merely instructed Ghannouchi he would roll over a state of emergency in place since 2015.

Mechichi was at his workplace. He had met Saied yesterday to debate the pandemic and was shocked to obtain a name at 7 p.m. summoning him to the palace. “He went off in a rush with out realizing any particulars,” stated an aide.

Advised he had been dismissed, Mechichi may solely settle for, the supply near him stated, and after the announcement he was pushed house by a safety element.

Saied’s announcement shocked Ghannouchi too. Reached by Reuters shortly afterwards, he denounced it as a coup.

Ghannouchi had already spoken with Mechichi concerning the protests. After Saied’s declaration, he tried to name him once more however couldn’t attain him till 11 p.m.

He requested Mechichi if he nonetheless regarded himself as prime minister and requested him to publicly reject Saied’s strikes, however the ousted premier gave no clear response, an Ennahda supply stated.

Already, the streets have been filling with the president’s supporters, jubilant that he appeared to be cracking down on systemic disarray and stagnation.

Over the subsequent hours, Saied assigned an ally to oversee the inside ministry whereas the military surrounded the Tunis parliament, tv station and the Authorities Workplace.

Saied had outmanoeuvred his opponents.

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