Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Sunday sacked the prime minister, suspended Parliament and lifted the immunity of its members, citing a constitutional provision for times of “imminent danger” to the country.
In a speech broadcast after an emergency meeting of military and security officers at Carthage Palace, Mr Saied said he was taking over the executive authority and would name a new head of Cabinet to replace Hichem Mechichi.
The president said his actions were based on Article 80 of the country’s 2014 constitution.
“We took these decisions so that social peace returns to Tunisia and that we save the country,” he said.
His opponents, including key political movements and parties, accuse Mr Saied of staging a coup against democracy.
Mr Mechichi has the backing of the largest party in parliament, Ennahda, which is entitled in this capacity by the constitution to nominate the PM.
What does Article 80 say?
According to Article 80 of the Tunisia’s constitution, relating to emergency measures, “The President of the Republic, in a state of imminent danger threatening the integrity of the country and the country’s security and independence, is entitled to take the measures necessitated by this exceptional situation, after consulting the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Cabinet”.
The article does not authorise the president to dissolve the Parliament, and stipulates that the measures imposed are aimed at restoring stability and ensuring that state institutions function properly.
It also provides for the emergency measures to be challenged, stating that “thirty days after implementation of these measures, the Constitutional Court, at the request of the Speaker of the Parliament or 30 of its members, is entrusted with a decision on the continuation of the exceptional situation or not”.
The court must “declare its decision publicly within a maximum period of 15 days, and the implementation of these measures shall be terminated when the reasons for them cease to exist”.
But although the 2014 constitution provides for a Constitutional Court to resolve such situations, none has been established.
Often hailed as the sole success of the 2011 Arab unrest that toppled several regimes in the region, the Tunisian uprising has not led to stability economically or politically.
Mr Saied’s decision on Sunday followed violent protests over the government’s handling of the recent surge in Covid cases and continuing economic hardship.