Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets against President Saïed against the backdrop of the economic crisis

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Several rallies took place on Saturday in the Tunisian capital against the grip of President Kaïs Saïed, as well as the economic and social crisis affecting the country. A mobilization that comes twelve years after the departure and fall of former President Ben Ali’s regime.

Thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday 14 January in Tunis against the concentration of power in the hands of President Kaïs Saïed, a discontent that has been reinforced by shortages and the economic crisis, twelve years after the fall of dictator Ben Ali.

The motto of the main demonstration, organized by the National Salvation Front (FSN, opposition), was the rejection of the “coup” led by Kaïs Saïed on 25 July 2021. But many demonstrators say they also came to protest their deteriorating economic conditions. “The coup brought us back to hunger and poverty. Yesterday the grocery store gave me just a kilo of macaroni and a liter of milk. How can I feed my family of thirteen with this”, condemned AFP Nouha, 50, housewife, demonstrating with the FSN .

“The people want what you don’t want. Destroy Saïed! Get out, get out!” chanted the activists, including many sympathizers of the Islam-inspired Ennahdha party, which dominated Parliament before Kaïs Saïed took over. in the summer of 2021.

“Tunisia is doing badly”

Deeming the country ungovernable, Kaïs Saïed then dismissed the Prime Minister and suspended Parliament. Since then, he has appointed a government but runs the country by decree. He also reformed the Constitution this summer to strengthen his powers to the detriment of Parliament, which dissolved in early 2022. Legislative elections under fire are under way to elect an Assembly that has no real powers.

“Today, Tunisia is, no doubt, at an impasse. It is not going well, both politically and economically, socially and financially,” explains France 24 Sophie Bessis, Franco-French historian and researcher. Tunisian at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

Tunisian demonstrators wave the national flag during a demonstration in central Tunis against their president, January 14, 2023. AFP – FETHI BELAID

“He betrayed us”

Despite this common goal, the opposition parties did not form a united front on Saturday, with rallies at three different points in the capital.

Late in the morning, a thousand FSN protesters forced a security barrier to march towards the symbolic Bourguiba Avenue before face-to-face tensions with police, who were present in large numbers, according to AFP journalists. .

At the FSN demonstration, Omar, a 27-year-old unemployed man, presented himself as a disillusioned voter of President Saïed, a constitutional lawyer who was a novice in politics, who was voted in by nearly 73% in 2019. “He betrayed us. This is the result: an economic crisis .. An unbearable shortage, there is no milk in our fridge”, he said.

Tunisians, most of whom support the takeover of Kaïs Saïed, show increasing dissatisfaction with their deteriorating living conditions, with inflation above 10% affecting their purchasing power, and poverty affecting 20% ​​of Tunisia’s twelve million people.

As the deeply indebted country finds it very difficult to finance the imports of basic products for which it is responsible, shortages of milk, sugar, coffee and more recently pasta have become chronic.

“Save Country”

In demonstrations by left-wing parties in the city center, some activists brandished chopsticks denouncing “authoritarian deviation” by Kaïs Saïed, while others adopted one of the slogans of the 2011 Revolution, demanding “jobs” in the face of unemployment. above 15%.

Civil society, until recently somewhat coy, also mobilized on Saturday in front of the headquarters of the SNJT journalists’ union, concerned about the ambiguity of a new law to clamp down on the spread of “fake news”.

At the same time, another procession crossed Tunis and its environs at the initiative of Abir Moussi, leader of the Free Destourian Party, an anti-Islamic movement that missed President Habib Bourguiba, a hero of independence in 1956. Abir Moussi, surrounded by hundreds of activists, also denounced the economic crisis in a country he blames for the “Saïed regime”, calling for his departure.

A “broken” democratic process.

In between these protests, in which he did not participate, the powerful UGTT trade union center made its voice heard through its leader Noureddine Tabboubi, who announced that an “important hour is nigh” for the presentation of a roadmap to “save the country”.

Sophie Bessis explained that “with the dissolution of the old National Assembly, the repeal of the old Constitution, and the new Constitution which the Head of State himself wrote, there are no more powers of separation in Tunisia”.

Investigators determined that the magistrates’ union had been “put under surveillance” and that “a number of judges had been relieved of their duties”. “Today, the Head of State is concentrating three forces. This is an undeniable danger to the democratic process in Tunisia”, he warned, also pointing out that this process is “broken”.

With AFP

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