Thousands of Tunisian protesters demand President Saied removal after ‘coup’

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Thousands of Tunisians demonstrated in the capital Tunis on Saturday, rejecting a coup by President Kais Saied and demanding responsibility for the country’s long-running economic crisis, AFP correspondents said.

Saied carried out a dramatic coup in July last year and later pushed through a constitution that enshrined his one-man rule, in what critics called a return to autocracy in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Protesters in central Tunis chanted “Down, down,” “Revolution against dictator Kais” and “The coup will fall.”

The march was organized by the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties, including the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, which had dominated Tunisia’s parliament before it was overthrown by Saied.

Ali Laarayedh, the former prime minister of Tunisia and a senior Ennahdha official, told AFP the protest was an expression of “anger at the state of affairs under Kais Saied”.

“We tell him to leave.”

Saied’s seizure of power was welcomed by some Tunisians who were tired of what they saw as a fickle and corrupt system created after the 2011 revolution that ousted the late dictator Zine El Abidine Ali.

But a deteriorating economic situation, exacerbated by a shortage of supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, has left many in the North African country of 12 million people turmoil.

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If Saied stays, “Tunisia has no future,” Laarayedh said, citing rising despair, poverty and unemployment.

The National Salvation Front has announced it will boycott a vote in December to elect a new parliament with limited powers.

Ennahdha’s deep ideological rival, the secular Free Destourian Party (PDL), also staged a protest in the capital on Saturday.

Saied “does nothing and it only gets worse,” said Souad, a retiree in his 60s at the secular party’s demonstration.

Some protesters carried empty containers to symbolize the rising cost of water due to inflation, which stood at 9.1 percent in September.

About 1,500 people took part in the Ennahdha-led demonstration, while nearly 1,000 attended the PDL protest, the interior ministry told AFP.

In public remarks, Saied has argued that he was “correcting” economic problems inherited from Tunisia’s post-Ben Ali leadership.

Tunisia in financial distress is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout loan of about $2 billion.



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