Tunisians rally in Tunis to back president Saied

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More than 5,000 demonstrators held a show of support Sunday throughout Tunisia for President Kais Saied whose power grab has stirred controversy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

With an estimated 3,000 of them rallying in the capital Tunis, the pro-Saied crowd exceeded that which gathered a week earlier to oppose him.

“The people want the dissolution of parliament,” “We are all Kais Saied, we are all Tunisia,” chanted the crowd gathered on Bourguiba Avenue, the main thoroughfare in central Tunis.

On July 25, after months of political stalemate, Saied sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and granted himself judicial powers, a move he followed up by measures that effectively allow the president to rule by decree.

In the latest detention of a legislator after the immunity of MPs was lifted under the suspension, a deputy and a journalist — whose television programme he appeared in to criticise Saied — were arrested Sunday, their lawyer Samir Ben Omar said.

Saied, elected on an anti-system ticket in late 2019, has said his action seeks to “save” Tunisia from “imminent peril” and a socio-economic crisis aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Security forces were deployed in force Sunday on Bourguiba Avenue, especially in front of the municipal theatre where the demonstration occurred.

The demonstrators flew Tunisian flags and carried banners reading: “The people want a revision of the constitution” and “Saied, official spokesman of the people.”

The previous Sunday a crowd of an estimated 2,000 people rallied, also on Bourguiba Avenue, to protest what critics have branded Saied’s “coup d’etat”.

Some shouted “Get out, get out”, the slogan that started in December 2010 and culminated in the resignation of Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, triggering Arab Spring protests in several countries.

Ben Omar told AFP that MP Abdellatif al-Alaoui and Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad have been arrested on charges of “plotting against state security”.

In the programme, they both criticised the president’s September 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first woman prime minister, with Ayad scoffing that she would function only as “servant of the sultan”.

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