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Demonstrations in the capital follow clashes in the south as economic conditions worsen
There are growing signs that President Kaïs Saïed is beginning to lose popular support for his suspension of parliament amid frustration over a deepening crisis in public finances. On Sunday (14 November) thousands of protestors marched on the parliament, pulling down police barriers blocking access to the Bardo palace area of Tunis.
Parliament has been suspended since July when Saïed sacked the government and started to rule by decree. Last week demonstrators set fire to a police station after clashing with security forces in Agareb near Sfax, in southern Tunisia.
President Saïed still has widespread backing for his strategy after he appointed little known technocrat Najla Boden as prime minister. Frustrated after months of paralysis in parliament, many Tunisians had joined pro-government demonstrations. But that support may be ebbing as economic pressures grow.
The continuing suspension of parliament means Saïed's government is unable to pass a new state budget and to start reforming the economy (AC Vol 62 No 16, Saïed lashes out).
When Saïed suspended parliament in July, that also froze talks with international lenders. Tunisia's central bank has now confirmed that talks have restarted with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a rescue package.
The reforms and liberalising measures which the Fund had earlier requested from Tunis are still on the table. Tumbling living standards and the economic fallout from the pandemic leaves Saïed little room for manoeuvre.
Perhaps to deflect attention from the coming economic pain, Saïed has moved against former President Moncef Marzouki, issuing an international arrest warrant for him for undermining national security.
The interim president for three years after the Arab Spring, Marzouki, who has been in France for several months, has been a vocal critic of Saïed. After Marzouki's campaigning, the summit of the International Francophone Organisation due to be held this month on Djerba, off the Tunisian coast, has been postponed.
The official reason for the delay is 'allowing Tunisia to be able to organise this important meeting in the best conditions.'
That embarrassment, as well as Marzouki's ubiquitous appearances on French television channels and social networks describing Saied as a 'dictator' and demanding his removal, appears to have prompted the arrest call (AC Vol 62 No 22, Saïed channels Mussolini).
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