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Dueling Tunisian protests erupt over president’s power grab

Dueling Tunisian protests erupt over president's power grab
Protesters angry at the Tunisian president’s seizure of broad powers have faced off against his supporters in competing demonstrations in the North African nation’s capital of Tunis

Protesters angry at the Tunisian president’s seizure of broad powers faced off with his supporters Saturday in competing demonstrations in the North African nation’s capital of Tunis.

It was the first time that President Kais Saied’s critics demonstrated against his actions since he suspended parliament, fired the prime minister and assumed full executive powers on July 25. Saied said the measures were necessary to save the country amid tensions over Tunisia’s economic and virus crisis, and would only last a month. But he then extended them “until further notice.”

The move sidelined Tunisia’s powerful islamiste party Ennahdha and has thrown its young democracy into question.

His critics at Saturday’s protest demanded that he reverse the measures, chanting “Down with the coup!” and “Constitution, freedom, dignity!” Ennahdha and other critics say the president’s move violated Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring constitution.

Gathered on the same Tunis avenue behind a police cordon, Saied’s supporters shouted opposing chants and urged him to pursue promises to crack down on lawmakers blamed for Tunisia’s economic woes and its health issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But some of Saied’s supporters are growing disillusioned. Tunisia remains without a government that Saied has repeatedly promised to put in place “in the coming days.”