Tunisia’s parliament speaker Rachid Ghannouchi on Thursday called for a “peaceful struggle” against the return of “absolute one-man rule”, a day after President Qais Saeed stepped in to rule.
Saeed announced on Wednesday orders that strengthen his office’s powers at the expense of the government and parliament.
Ghannouchi called the move “a step backwards towards full human rule,” a decade after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.
“We urge the people to take part in peaceful actions against the dictatorship and bring Tunisia back to the path of democracy,” he said.
The new provisions came almost two months after the president fired Hincham Michi’s Annadha-backed government, suspended parliament and presented himself as the final spokesman for the constitution.
Ananda, the largest party in the divided legislature, condemned the July 25 move as a “coup” and a violation of the country’s hard-won 2014 constitution.
Although many Tunisians backed Syed’s moves out of frustration with the political system, some observers saw him as a blow to the only democracy emerging from the Arab Spring uprisings.
Ghannouchi, 80, camped in front of parliament in Tunisia for 12 hours after Saeed’s seizure of power.
“The situation is worse now than it was on July 25,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Earlier, “no arrests were made on blog posts, thousands of Tunisians were not barred from leaving the country.”
Tunisia has seen a political stalemate for many years since its 2011 revolution, with divisive coalitions and short-term governments unable to resolve social and economic crises.
The 2019 elections gave birth to another fragmented parliament that once again allowed Ananda to dominate the government.
As a result, the stalemate in legislation, which has severely affected a country with the corona virus epidemic, means that Syed’s seizure of power in July has garnered significant public support.
But civil society groups have warned against moving toward dictatorship, saying the revolution ended Tunisia’s democratic interests a decade after the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“The president is back before the revolution,” Ghannouchi said.
He said his party was ready to work with all parties to restore democracy in Tunisia.
Ghannouchi founded Ananda four decades ago and continues to patronize it despite years of exile under Bin Ali’s dictatorship.
‘Strict methods and violence’
After Ben Ali’s fall in the 2011 revolution, Ananda returned to politics and has been part of every parliamentary coalition since, supporting the country’s short-term governments.
But the party has clashed with former legal expert Saeed, who strongly opposes the Ananda and Tunisian party systems, rather than decentralizing them.
“The president has expressed his views before taking office: his vision of a people’s government, rejecting political parties, parliament. It is his choice, his right,” Ghannouchi said.
“But he has no right to use harsh methods and violence.”
In the 217-seat Legislative Assembly, Ananda is the most organized party, which is also headed by Ghanuchi.
But since 2014, the party’s vote share has dwindled.
It has also seen internal rifts in recent years as young members have called for change at the top, including replacing Ghanuchi himself.
“One of the positive aspects of the president’s decisions is that he will link Annada with other political parties and unite Annada himself,” Ghannouchi said.
When asked if his party would run in the by-elections, Syed called him and said: “We will run.”