Tunisia: Thousands rally in support of President Saied | News

Protesters waved Tunisian flags and carried placards criticizing Ennahdha.

Thousands of supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied have gathered in the capital to show support for his suspension of parliament and promises to change the political system, acts his critics call a coup.

The demonstration in central Tunis was in response to protests against Saied’s actions in the same location over the past two weekends.

On Sunday, protesters waved Tunisian flags and carried banners against Ennahdha, the ‘Muslim democratic’ party that is the largest in parliament and has acted as Saied’s main opponent.

“We ask the president to dissolve parliament and hold accountable those who have made people suffer for ten years,” Salem Ajoudi, one of the protesters, said.

Another protester, Adel Chemli, told Al Jazeera that President Saied is the right person to lead the country out of the current crisis.

“Today is a historic day. It is the first time that the majority of the people are with their president. I have known Saied for 40 years. I was in law school with him, I came from Canada to support him. I am almost 60 years old, I am doing this for the young people for their future,” said Chemli.

Several protests are taking place in the North African country [Elizia Volkmann/Al Jazeera]

Bernard Smith of Al Jazeera, who reports from the capital Tunis, said several protests are taking place in the North African country.

“There are other protests all over Tunisia, all to show support for the president,” Smith said. “These protests should show that there is continued support for what the president is doing. This is despite the fact that there is still no plan to lift Tunisia out of the appalling economic conditions it finds itself in.”

In July, Tunisia’s president plunged into a constitutional crisis by suspending the elected parliament, firing the prime minister and assuming executive power.

Last month, he brushed aside much of the constitution to say he could pass legislation by decree, calling into question Tunisia’s democratic achievements since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

Saied’s intervention followed years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, exacerbated by an impoverishing lockdown last year, a slow-starting vaccination campaign and street protests.

Polls show Saied has support, but his delay in establishing a timeline out of the crisis is beginning to bolster opposition [Elizia Volkmann/Al Jazeera]

Many Tunisians blame those ills on a corrupt, selfish political elite, and see Saied, an independent elected in 2019, as a champion of the people.

“We are against parliament, we are with Kais Saied. He is correcting and repairing our system. He is a democratic man,” Amel ben Amar, a public sector worker, told Al Jazeera during the protest.

While opinion polls show that Saied’s actions are widely supported, his long delay in revealing a crisis timeline is beginning to cement opposition to him.

On Sunday, Tunisian police arrested a member of parliament and a television host who have been prominent critics of Saied since July, their lawyer said.

The lawyer, Samir Ben Omar, said the military judiciary had ordered the arrests and accused the couple of “conspiracy against state security and insulting the military” after they aired a program on Zaytouna television station.

Aloui Abdellatif is a member of parliament for the conservative religious Karama party and Ameur Ayed is a host on Zaytouna. In the program, they fiercely criticized Saied, calling him a traitor.

Additional coverage by Elizia Volkmann in Tunis.

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