Tunis sees heavy police presence as hundreds rally against President Kais Saied despite COVID restrictions.
Tunisian police used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to reach central Tunis to protest against the president in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions.
A fierce police presence on Friday prevented protesters from gathering on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the main street in the center of the capital, which is the traditional focus of protests, including during the 2011 Tunisian uprising. democracy ushered in.
The police then tried to expel several different groups of protesters, of which at least one hundreds of protesters had, witnesses said.
Dozens of police cars were parked in the area and two water cannons were placed outside the Interior Ministry building, which is located in the same street.
Opposition parties, including Ennahdha, are protesting against the suspension. President Kais Saied, acceptance of executive power and moves to rewrite the constitution, which they call a coup.
Saied government forces seized at the end of July. He denied allegations of coup d’état and promised to uphold the rights and freedoms won in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which sparked Arab Spring uprisings across the region.
Friday’s protest is against a government ban on all indoor or outdoor events, which were announced Tuesday to stop a COVID-19 wave.
“Today is Saied’s only response to opponents with violence and the security forces … it is so sad to see Tunisia like a barracks on the date of our revolution,” said Chayma Issa, an opposition activist.
Ennahdha, the party with the largest number of seats in Tunisia’s suspended parliament, and other parties participating in the protest, accused the government of imposing the ban and resuming its night ban for political rather than health reasons as a way to to prevent protests.
Friday marks what Tunisians used to mark as the anniversary of the revolution, the day longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the North African country.
However, Saied decided last year that instead of falling on the anniversary of Ben Ali’s departure into exile, it was on the December anniversary of the self-immolation of a street vendor, which caused the uprising.
“So just by coming out today, it’s a big demonstration that people are disobedient to him. [Saied’s] decrees, ”journalist Elizia Volkmann from Tunis reported on Friday.
“COVID numbers, and the Omicron variant, are indeed on the rise and there is a fear of a very serious upsurge, but opposition politicians accuse Kais Saied of using COVID as an excuse to block protests.”
Although Saied’s actions in July initially seemed very popular after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, analysts say he seems to have lost some support since then.
Since Saied’s intervention, several senior politicians and business leaders have been detained or prosecuted, often involving cases of corruption or libel.
On Tuesday, the country’s press syndicate said Tunisian state television had ban all political parties to enter its buildings or participate in talk shows in a severe setback for press freedoms.
Tunisia’s economy remains trapped by the pandemic, there has been little progress in gaining international support for the fragile public finances, and the government appointed by Saied in September has announced an unpopular budget for 2022.
The Tunisian president has begun preparations for a new constitution which he said he would present in July for a referendum.
The vote will take place following an online public consultation starting in January. Parliamentary elections are also expected to take place at the end of 2022.