Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the capital on Friday against Tunisian President Kais Saied, underlining growing opposition to his seizure of power and the suspension of parliament five months ago.
Called to coincide with the anniversary of the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ten years ago, it was the first protest since Saied on Monday announced a long-awaited roadmap that keeps parliament suspended. for another year.
Protesters began to gather in the center of Tunis, chanting “Freedom, freedom, the police state is over!” and “The people want the president to be removed from office!”
“This is not a roadmap to get out of the crisis, but to perpetuate the crisis”, declared Jawhar Ben Mubarak, expert in constitutional law and activist of “Citizens against the coup”, who mobilized the opposition to Saied.
Saied “took the country six months ago and wants to take it for another year,” he said.
A number of Saied supporters gathered in neighboring Habib Bourguiba Avenue, waving Tunisian flags.
Security forces have deployed overwhelmingly in the region.
The roadmap announced on Monday provides for a constitutional referendum next July, which will be followed by legislative elections at the end of 2022.
The largest party in parliament, the Islamist Ennahda, rejected the suspension of parliament for another year.
Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of parliament, said the only way out of the crisis was the cancellation of the exceptional measures declared by Saied.
The anniversary of the uprising was previously marked on January 14, when Ben Ali fled Tunisia, on the basis of an agreement between the groups that took part in the uprising.
But Saied decided to postpone the date to December 17, when the fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid after an altercation with a policewoman about the place where he had left his cart, triggering the uprising.
Saied’s takeover initially seemed to gain broad support among Tunisians tired from years of economic stagnation and political paralysis. But opposition to his position grew, including from political parties and other major national actors who were initially supportive.