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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Tunisians protest against President Kais Saied’s seizure of power on revolution anniversary

The opposition remains divided in its efforts to oust Saied from office, and Saturday’s protests are split between several different groups, which police say should demonstrate in separate, specified areas.

But the protesters said they planned to defy police instructions and march towards the central avenue of Habib Bourguiba, a traditional rallying point, and pushed through barricades, a Reuters reporter there said.

“We were in Bourguiba in January 2011 when Saied was not present… today Bourguiba is closing to us. We will achieve this at any cost,” said Chaima Issa, an activist who took part in the 2011 revolution.

Hundreds of protesters were present at only one of the locations where Reuters was present. A large police presence was seen outside the Ministry of Interior building on Habib Bouguiba Avenue along with a water cannon.

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Saied closed the elected parliament in 2021 and began reshaping the political system, but low turnout in December’s elections for a new, mostly powerless, legislature revealed little public appetite for his changes.

Major political forces, including most parties and unions, are now opposed to Saied’s project, with many calling it an anti-democratic coup.

But they have failed to mend the deep ideological and personal rifts that have divided them for years, instead of forming a united front.

Many parties still reject the role of the largest party, the Islamist Ennahda. The powerful UGTT trade union is seeking a national dialogue but will not invite any party that Saied accuses of a coup.

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The protests come 12 years to the day since the ouster of former autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and January 14 is seen by most Tunisian parties and civil society groups as the anniversary of the revolution.

However, Saied unilaterally changed the official date of the anniversary, saying he considered January 14 the moment the revolution went astray.

While there has been no major crackdown on Saied’s opponents and police have allowed most protests against him, their handling of demonstrations on January 14 last year was more forceful, drawing condemnation from human rights activists.

Tunis, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Protesters pushed through police barricades as they demonstrated against Tunisian President Kais Said’s near-total seizure of power in central Tunis on Saturday, the anniversary of a key date in the 2011 revolution that brought democracy.

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The opposition remains divided in its efforts to oust Saied from office, and Saturday’s protests are split between several different groups, which police say should demonstrate in separate, specified areas.

But the protesters said they planned to defy police instructions and march towards the central avenue of Habib Bourguiba, a traditional rallying point, and pushed through barricades, a Reuters reporter there said.

“We were in Bourguiba in January 2011 when Saied was not present… today Bourguiba is closing to us. We will achieve this at any cost,” said Chaima Issa, an activist who took part in the 2011 revolution.

Hundreds of protesters were present at only one of the locations where Reuters was present. A large police presence was seen outside the Ministry of Interior building on Habib Bouguiba Avenue along with a water cannon.

ADVERTISEMENT

Saied closed the elected parliament in 2021 and began reshaping the political system, but low turnout in December’s elections for a new, mostly powerless, legislature revealed little public appetite for his changes.

Major political forces, including most parties and unions, are now opposed to Saied’s project, with many calling it an anti-democratic coup.

But they have failed to mend the deep ideological and personal rifts that have divided them for years, instead of forming a united front.

Many parties still reject the role of the largest party, the Islamist Ennahda. The powerful UGTT trade union is seeking a national dialogue but will not invite any party that Saied accuses of a coup.

ADVERTISEMENT

The protests come 12 years to the day since the ouster of former autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and January 14 is seen by most Tunisian parties and civil society groups as the anniversary of the revolution.

However, Saied unilaterally changed the official date of the anniversary, saying he considered January 14 the moment the revolution went astray.

While there has been no major crackdown on Saied’s opponents and police have allowed most protests against him, their handling of demonstrations on January 14 last year was more forceful, drawing condemnation from human rights activists.

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