Tunisian president's supporters clash with Ennahda opponents outside parliament
Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied clashed with the conservative Islamist party Ennahda outside parliament on Monday, a day after the president ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis. Our Observer reports on the tense climate outside parliament.
After a day of demonstrations in several Tunisian cities on July 25, a national holiday commemorating the abolishment of the monarchy, Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister, Hichem Mechichi. The announcement came at a time of widespread anger among Tunisians, who accuse the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 epidemic.
The president announced that he would take over in the country, as well as lift immunity for parliamentarians and suspend the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP) for one month, led by Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the conservative Islamic movement, Ennahda. Government offices in the capital Tunis were closed to civil servants on Monday.
Ennahda is the largest party in the Assembly, with 54 seats, and several ministers represent the party in the government. Supporters of Ennahda gathered in front of parliament at dawn on Monday, soon to be joined by supporters of President Kais Saied.
A barrier of law enforcement officers separated the two camps and tried to maintain control, as shown in the video below. At the sixth minute of the video, Ennahda supporters shout out a slogan that was used by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013, against the military coup d'état: “Down with the military regime!”
A video taken on July 26 in front of the Tunis parliament, showing pro- and anti-Ennahda protesters shouting insults at one another.
The video below shows pro-Ennahda protesters trying to force their way into the parliament building. Several Ennahda supporters were injured, according to Zied Hosni, a journalist for Shems FM radio who was at the scene.
In a video taken on July 26, Ennahda party supporters attempt to break into the parliament building.
Attempted invasion of the #Tunisia|n parliament, by sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood’s #Ennahdha, following freezing activity of their leader at the head of the @ARPtn, by @TnPresidency, urgently after the activation of Art. 80 of the constitution! Violence is their asset! pic.twitter.com/S51Hp8H6UN— The Godfather (@Al_Pacino_) July 26, 2021
‘Practically all of those injured were Ennahda supporters’
Zied Hosni, a journalist for local radio station Shems FM was in front of parliament from the early morning hours of July 26.
At around 6am, while Rached Ghannouchi was still there, Ennahda supporters flocked to the parliament building to support him. Supporters of President Kais Saied also came. They gathered in front of the outer gate of the Assembly.
At first, security forces directed President Kais Saied’s supporters towards another spot outside the Assembly, in order to prevent a clash. But some of them managed to get through the police barrier and approach the pro-Ennahda to confront them.
Two hours later, supporters of both camps began to shout at each other. Supporters of the president started to thrown stones and bottles at the pro-Ennahda, who, in turn, retaliated. The president’s supporters were mainly targeting the Ennahda officials.
Practically all of those injured were Ennahda supporters since they were violently attacked with stones by young people, who are assumed to be supporters of the president. There were also some skirmishes in nearby streets. In all, there were about ten people with minor injuries.
Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the Assembly, went to the parliament building at 2:30am on Monday, joined by deputy speaker Samira Chaouachi (of the affiliated Heart of Tunisia party) and other parliamentarians. Military officers posted at the gates prevent him from entering the building.
In this footage, Ghannouchi gets out of his vehicle and walks towards the gate. Chaouachi asks a soldier to open the gate, who then responds, “We have received orders [...] the parliament is closed.”
A video shows the speaker and deputy speaker of the Assembly, Rached Ghannouchi and Samira Chaouachi, being denied access to the premises in the early hours of Monday, July 26.
Ghannouchi remained at the site until around 1:30pm, Zied Hosni said.
A political crisis spanning months
Tunisia’s leaders have been unsuccessful in their attempts to install a stable government in the country for the past few months. The country’s top three leaders have continuously clashed as they wrestle with an acute economic, social and health crisis: President Kais Saied, the newly sacked prime minister Hichem Mechichi, and speaker of the Assembly Rached Ghannouchi with the Islamist majority. Saied's latest move has been decried by members of Ennahda as a coup.