Tunisia’s president dissolves parliament, extending power grab

Kais Saied says the move, eight months after the suspension of parliament, aims to ‘preserve the state and its institutions’.

Presidential candidate Kais Saied speaks as he attends a news conference after the announcement of the results in the first round of Tunisia's presidential election in Tunis.
In July last year, President Kais Saied sacked the government, froze the assembly and seized wide-ranging powers [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has announced on state TV that he is dissolving the country’s parliament, eight months after suspending it in a July power grab.

“Today, at this historic moment, I announce the dissolution of the Assembly of Representatives of the people, to preserve the state and its institutions,” he said on Wednesday.

He made the announcement at a meeting of the National Security Council, hours after parliamentarians held a plenary session online and voted through a bill against his “exceptional measures”.

Following the online session, Tunisia’s justice minister, Leila Jeffal, asked the attorney general to open a judicial investigation against members of a suspended parliament on charges of “conspiring against state security”, local media said.

Saied denounced parliament’s move as a “coup attempt” and said those responsible had “betrayed” the nation.

Tunisian parliamentarians voted on Wednesday to repeal presidential decrees suspending their chamber and giving Kais Saied near-total power, openly defying him in an online session, although he dismissed their meeting as illegal.

The former law professor, elected in 2019 amid public anger against the political class, on July 25 last year sacked the government, froze the assembly and seized wide-ranging powers.

He later gave himself powers to rule and legislate by decree and seized control over the judiciary in what rivals saw as further blows to democracy in the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Saied’s moves were initially welcomed by many Tunisians sick of the often deadlocked political system that emerged from the revolution that overthrew longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But an increasing array of critics have said he has moved the country, which also faces a grinding economic crisis, down a dangerous path back towards autocracy.

Source: News Agencies