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Tunisian Saied acts on the economy and Covid-19 after sacking the government


President Kais Saied justified the measures, which included impeaching the prime minister and suspension of parliament, citing a pandemic and burgeoning bad governance, saying he acted to save the country from corruption and plots aimed at sowing civil war.

Public anger had grown in Tunisia over the political paralysis that had prevented a coherent response to the pandemic and after years of economic hardship and declining public services.

France said on Wednesday it was paramount that Saied quickly appoint a new prime minister and a new cabinet, while civil society groups, including the powerful union, said he had to produce a roadmap to get out. of the crisis within a month.

A decade after ending autocratic rule through a popular uprising, Tunisia faces the most severe test to date for its democratic system, and Western countries that have applauded its political transition have expressed concern.

Saied, who says his actions are constitutional but has yet to define his next steps, has been urged by the United States to stick to democratic principles. He met with security chiefs on Wednesday, the presidency said.

Backed by the military, Saied’s actions included suspending parliament for 30 days. Opponents, including the Islamist Ennahda party, the largest party in parliament, accused him of seizing power.

He replaced the director of the TV station on Wednesday after an incident in which two guests on a news show said they were refused entry to the building.

The United States on Monday urged Tunisia to maintain “scrupulous respect for free speech” after a police raid on a foreign press office, but a New York Times reporter on Wednesday said police had it. detained for two hours while working in Tunis.

Judicial probe

Late Wednesday, the presidency released a video showing Saied telling a union leader that “bad economic choices” had caused major financial problems.

Tunisia is seeking a loan agreement from the International Monetary Fund to finance its projected budget deficit and debt repayment.

Saied in the video called on traders to lower commodity prices and warned them against speculation or hoarding. He also targeted a businessman accused of corruption, claiming 460 people had stolen 13.5 billion dinars ($ 4.8 billion) of public money.

Justice had previously said it was investigating the two largest parties in parliament, Ennahda and Heart of Tunisia, suspected of receiving foreign funds during the 2019 election campaign.

The judiciary, widely regarded in Tunisia as independent from politics, said its investigation began 10 days before the president’s moves.

Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party that became the focal point of opposition to Saied’s takeover after its parliament speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, accused him of carrying out a coup, denied having committed violations.

Heart of Tunisia could not be reached for comment.

Although Ennahda on Sunday called on his supporters to take to the streets against Saied’s actions, he has since called for calm and sought a national dialogue.

There were no signs of protests or other unrest on Wednesday, although a larger security presence was in place in central Tunis. The army also remains in the parliament, government and television buildings it surrounded on Sunday.

Saied reiterated a long-standing rule banning gatherings of more than three people in public, but there was no indication that it was being enforced as people moved and gathered normally.

Saied has also tightened some existing Covid-19 restrictions, including a nighttime curfew and a ban on travel between cities.

On Wednesday, he ordered the creation of a pandemic response center to coordinate Tunisia’s management of the Covid-19 crisis, the presidency said.

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