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Tunisian president names ally as new interior minister

Former Tunis governor Kamal Feki was given the post just days after massive opposition protests took place in the country.

Tunisian President Kais Saied has appointed Kamal Feki as his new interior minister just hours after Taoufik Charfeddine resigned amid a crackdown on prominent opposition figures.

Saied issued two decrees on Friday, the first to remove Charfeddine and a second to appoint Feki, the former governor of Tunis, as head of the interior ministry, the presidency said in a press release overnight.

Feki, one of Saied’s staunchest supporters, refused to grant a protest permit to the opposition Salvation Front coalition, alleging its leaders were involved in conspiracies against state security. However, the Ministry of the Interior allowed them to protest.

Charfeddine, a former lawyer, was a key figure in the election campaign that propelled the previously little-known Saied to the presidency in 2019.

He was seen as one of Tunisia’s closest officials to the president, but had made fewer public appearances in recent months.

Speaking to reporters in comments broadcast on local media, Charfeddine referred to his wife’s death last year and his need to care for his children.

Saied has had increasing control over the security forces since July 2021, when he sacked the government of the country’s former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Saied closed parliament and ruled by decree before drafting a new constitution which he approved last year.

Charfeddine also served as interior minister under Mechichi, who sacked him in January 2021 when relations between the president and prime minister broke down. Saied reappointed him after firing Mechichi and taking over most of the powers.

To manhandle

In recent weeks, Tunisian authorities have arrested prominent opposition figures accusing Saied of plotting a coup and accusing them of conspiring against state security.

Police have also cracked down on undocumented African refugees, with rights groups accusing them of detaining hundreds and turning a blind eye to racist attacks.

Last month, Charfeddine sided with Saied as Tunisia faced international outcry over a presidential tirade against illegal refugees from sub-Saharan Africa.

“There is no question of anyone being allowed to stay in Tunisia in an illegal situation,” the president said during one of his videotaped meetings with the minister.

“I will not allow state institutions to be undermined or Tunisia’s demographic composition to change.”