Tunisia's President Kais Saied has extended the suspension of the nation's parliament until further notice, his office said in a statement on Monday. The president also extended the suspension of the immunity of lawmakers.
Saied had dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the legislature last month, saying he would assume executive authority in the country.
He said his intervention was needed to save Tunisia from collapse following mass protests over the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Saied is yet to make good on his pledge to appoint a new prime minister. He has also not provided a roadmap to restore parliament as Western allies have demanded.
Saied will address the nation in the coming days, the presidency said.
How much support does Saied have?
It is unclear how much support Saied exactly enjoys, but growing anger among the public against the biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, has lent itself to the escalating political crisis in the country.
After Saied dismissed the prime minister last month, crowds flooded the streets in the capital and other cities, cheering and honking car horns, in scenes reminiscent of the Arab Spring of 2011.
The leader of the Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, called on Tunisians to come on to the streets to stop what he called a coup.
Tunisians are angry about soaring COVID infection and death rates, and its dire economic consequences. They were already angry about declining state services and high unemployment even before the pandemic struck.
Though Saied's decision to suspend parliament appears to enjoy widespread support, his moves have raised concerns in some quarters about the future of the democratic system Tunisia adopted after its revolution in 2011.
Several politicians, businesspeople and judges — who lost their immunity after Saied suspended the legislature — said they had been banned from traveling abroad or put under house arrest without warning.
Their claims have sparked a chorus of condemnation, with critics denouncing "arbitrary" and "unjustified" measures.
Saied, who vowed to stand up against corruption, was elected as president in a landslide victory in 2019.
rm/sri (Reuters, AFP)