In a statement posted on social media, the Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, announced that the parliament is in a state of “permanent sitting” and urged deputies to resume work despite the suspension. of the work of parliament by President Kais Saied, in a new escalation of the political crisis in the country.
It appears Ghannouchi’s announcement will deepen the dispute over the legitimacy of Said’s seizure of most legislative and executive powers in July, in a move the president’s opponents described as a coup.
“The Assembly of the People’s Representatives is in permanent session,” Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahda party, said in a tweet.
Ghannouchi held the president responsible for disrupting the council and reiterated his rejection of the presidential transitional provisions.
The House of Representatives is still frozen and members have been stripped of immunity, salaries and other privileges.
Saeed was elected in 2019 and is under national and international pressure to appoint a government following his intervention in July when he fired the prime minister, suspended parliament and took over executive power.
On Wednesday, Najla Bouden Ramadan, a geologist with little government experience, was appointed as Tunisia’s first female prime minister.
Last week, Saied suspended most of the constitution, saying it could rule by decree during an “exceptional” period without a definitive end, raising questions about democratic gains after the 2011 Tunisian revolution that sparked Arab Spring protests.
Earlier on Friday, security forces cordoned off parliament headquarters pending the arrival of its members.
AFP reporters saw uniformed and plainclothes police use metal barriers to close off the building in the Le Bardot neighborhood of Greater Tunis, blocking pedestrians and cars from entering.
More than 80 delegates, mostly from the Islamist Ennahda party and its ally, Qalb Tounes, had called on members of the 217-seat assembly to step outside to demand the reopening.
However, despite dozens of MPs joining calls for a rally to demand entry into parliament, AFP reporters saw only one.
“As a Member of Parliament, I came to resume my work, but I found the doors closed,” said Mohamed El-Qumani of the Ennahda party.
Al-Qomani, who was under police surveillance, left after some of Saeed’s supporters gathered before the council.
One of them shouted, “Leave. Why did you come to Parliament if you’ve been there for ten years? Aren’t you ashamed to leave?”
Both supporters and opponents of Said are planning demonstrations in the capital on Sunday, while on Tuesday four Tunisian political parties urged Said to withdraw from the council’s coup and warned that his controversial actions could fuel violence.