In Tunis, anti and pro-Saïed demonstrations for the feast of the revolution

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For the eleventh anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, on December 17, 2021, two demonstrations were opposed in Tunis: the supporters of President Kaïs Saïed and the opponents, who denounce an autocratic drift since the freezing of Parliament in July.

“Down with the coup d’etat” on the one hand, “All with Kaïs Saïed” on the other: hundreds of opponents and supporters of the Tunisian president demonstrated, Friday, December 17, in Tunis in a context of heightened tensions, on the occasion of the eleventh anniversary of the 2011 revolution. These demonstrations take place a few days after Mr. Saïed, who assumed full powers on July 25, extended the freeze on Parliament – dominated by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, his bête noire – for a year on Monday, until the holding of legislative news on December 17, 2022.

First, he intends to reform the 2014 Constitution, which he considers too unbalanced in favor of Parliament. Constitutional and electoral law amendments will be submitted to a referendum on July 25, 2022.

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A little more than a thousand people opposed to Mr. Saïed gathered at the entrance to the city center, blocked by large police lines, noted AFP journalists. “The people want what you don’t want”, he wants “The fall of the system”, “Down with the coup d’etat!” “ or “Freedoms! Freedoms! The days of the police state are over! “ and “The people want to dismiss the president”, they chanted.

A little further on, nearly 200 supporters of the president gathered in front of the Municipal Theater on Avenue Bourguiba, the capital’s central artery. With slogans: “The people want to clean up justice” or “The people want to judge the corrupt”.

“The street will cut off”

“The street will decide. We will not give up ten years of democracy ”, assures Samira, 42, opposed to the president. Ibrahim, 50, admits that the socio-economic situation is in decline but he believes that “That does not justify a coup d’etat”. “We are against the coup d’état and the President’s latest measures”, adds Abdellatif Mekki, former executive officer of Ennahda, for whom Mr. Saïed “Will seize power for another year, with an agenda that makes no sense”.

Sign of a growing polarization of the street, the tone is quite different among the supporters of the president. Mouna Akremi, a thirty-something who came to support the head of state, believes that “For ten years, the revolution was stolen by the Muslim Brotherhood who hijacked the demands of the people”.

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Patriotic songs are broadcast as demonstrators carry placards and banners in support of President Saïed, claiming “With you until the end to fight corruption!” “.

“We have lived through a dark decade of impoverishment, hunger and poverty. Economic indicators are down “, told AFP Nacer Medjabri, who came from Kairouan (southwest), wishing “A democratic system from the people”.

For Youssef Cherif, from the Columbia Global Centers research center, “Public opinion is largely passive” car “The majority of the population is disillusioned with the political class” even if“There is an active minority which will protest and continue to attack the presidential measures and describe them as illegitimate, even putschists”.

Date change

Mr. Saïed decided earlier this month to celebrate the anniversary of the Tunisian revolution on December 17, the day of the self-immolation of a street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, eleven years ago in Sidi Bouzid (center-east) . His gesture sparked demonstrations in Tunisia, then a large protest movement in other countries in the region: the Arab Spring.

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The birthday had previously been set for January 14, the day of the flight of the ex-dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, supposed to mark the end of the revolution. But for Mr. Saïed, the date of January 14 was not appropriate because the revolution remains in his eyes unfinished.

After the United States, which greeted on Tuesday “A timetable providing for a path towards political reform and parliamentary elections”, the European Union on Friday described Mr Saïed’s announcements as“Important step towards restoring institutional stability and balance”, while calling for the respect of “The democratic acquis, the separation of powers, the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The World with Reuters

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In Tunis, anti and pro-Saïed demonstrations for the feast of the revolution