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What happened in Tunisia was a coup

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When Tunisia’s President Kais Saied announced on Sunday his decision to invoke Article 80 of the country’s constitution, he was doing what he had publicly threatened to do for a while. Using the article, which allows the president to take “necessary measures” when the country is “in a state of imminent danger”, Saeid dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament.

Prior to Sunday’s announcement, Saied had on numerous occasions insisted that Tunisia’s 2014 constitution is a flawed text, that the current distribution of powers can only result in a political deadlock, and especially that the country’s worsening economic and public health challenges are caused by the corruption and recklessness of the biggest party in parliament, Ennahda.

Many Tunisians believed Saied’s claims.

Indeed, the inability of successive political coalitions to revitalise the economy and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic effectively, coupled with the warnings of the president, convinced many Tunisians that there is an urgent need for a radical solution. They took to the streets across the country to demand the government step down, and even attacked the offices of the Ennahda Party.

Thus when Saied announced his decision to invoke Article 80 and suspend parliament, even though it was not clear whether the move would lead to meaningful change, hundreds rushed to the parliament building to celebrate and many more cheered on social media.

Some voiced concerns over possible foreign interference in the democratic process and others peddled various conspiracy theories, but overall it was a genuine moment of jubilation in the country – a majority of Tunisians appeared supportive of the president’s decision to sack his unpopular prime minister.

And yet, it is crucial to call Saied’s move what it actually is: a coup.

Indeed, the president’s decision to suspend parliament and dismiss........

© Al Jazeera

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