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Islamist Ennahda supporters attempt to storm Tunisian parliament

The country is experiencing nationwide protests over economic troubles and spiralling coronavirus cases.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Tunisian soldiers guard the main entrance of the parliament as demonstrators gather outside the the gate in Tunis, Tunisia, July 26. Photo: AP
Tunisian soldiers guard the main entrance of the parliament as demonstrators gather outside the the gate in Tunis, Tunisia, July 26. Photo: AP

Protesters from the Islamist Ennahda movement in Tunisia tried again on Monday evening to storm the main parliament building after dozens of them gathered in front of the site’s outer gate.

Tunisia is seeing nationwide protests over the country’s economic troubles and spiralling coronavirus crisis.

The storming attempt came just hours after the Tunisian parliament speaker, and co-founder of the Ennahdha Party, Rached Ghannouchi left the vicinity of the Tunisian parliament after the army prevented him from entering.

Ghannouchi staged a sit-in in front of the parliament surrounded by the Tunisian army, while skirmishes erupted between Ennahda supporters and opponents.

Ennahda supporters also attacked Al Arabiya and Al Hadath news correspondents in front of the parliament.

In a declaration late on Sunday, Tunisian President Kais Saied invoked emergency powers under the constitution to dismiss Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspend parliament for 30 days, saying he would govern alongside a new premier. He rejected accusations of a coup.

Mechichi is at his home and not under arrest, one source close to him said on Monday.

Protesters celebrated President Kais Saied’s decision late Sunday night with shouts of joy, honking horns and waving Tunisian flags.

The dissolution of parliament had been among the demands of thousands of protesters who defied virus restrictions and scorching heat to demonstrate on Sunday in the capital, Tunis, and other cities.

The largely young crowds shouted slogans calling for early elections and economic reforms. Clashes erupted in many places.

The president said he had to fire the prime minister and suspend parliament because of concerns over public violence.

Tunisia’s economy has been struggling for years, and the country recently reimposed lockdowns and other virus restrictions because it’s facing one of Africa’s worst virus outbreaks.

Al Jazeera reports that the health ministry has warned that the health system has “collapsed” amid a significant influx of patients in hospitals. “The boat is sinking,” Health Minister Nisaf Ben Alaya said, calling on Tunisians to unite in efforts to combat the pandemic.

The situation is compounded by the slow pace of the vaccination campaign in Tunisia, where only about 13% of people have received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

One surprise bright spot for Tunisians came on Sunday as virtually unknown swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui triumphed in the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Games, beating a field of faster and older swimmers.

Hafnaoui was the first Tunisian and African to win Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

The 18-year-old celebrated his gold medal performance with loud yelling that echoed around the mostly empty 15,000-seat arena.