Despite COVID restrictions, Tunisia saw a large police presence and hundreds rallied against President Keith Saeed.
Tunisian police used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to reach central Tunisia who defied COVID-19 restrictions to protest the president.
On Friday, a large police presence prevented protesters from gathering on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the main street in the center of the capital, the traditional focus of demonstrations, including during the 2011 Tunisian uprising ushered in democracy.
Witnesses said police then tried to disperse several different groups of protesters, including at least hundreds of demonstrators.
Dozens of police cars were parked in the area, and two water cannons were placed outside the Home Office building on the same street.
Opposition parties including Ennahdha have been protesting parliamentary suspension President Keith Saeedexercising executive power and taking action to rewrite the constitution, which they call a coup.
Said seize power late July. He has denied the coup charges and pledged to uphold rights and freedoms won in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which sparked Arab Spring uprisings across the region.
Friday’s protest was against the government’s ban on all indoor or outdoor gatherings, announced on Tuesday, to stem the wave of COVID-19.
“Today, Saeed’s only response to opponents was force and security forces… It is sad to see Tunisia become a barracks on the day of our revolution,” said Chayma Issa, an opposition activist Say.
Ennahdha, the party with the most seats in Tunisia’s suspended parliament, and others involved in the protests accused the government of introducing the ban and reinstating the curfew for political rather than health reasons as a way to prevent the protests.
Friday coincided with what Tunisians had previously marked as the anniversary of the revolution, the day longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the North African country.
However, Syed ordered last year that rather than the anniversary of Ben Ali’s exile, it should be marked on december anniversary Street vendors set themselves on fire, sparking an uprising.
“So it came out today and it’s a big proof that people don’t obey him. [Saied’s] decree,” journalist Elizia Volkmann reported from Tunisia on Friday.
“COVID numbers and Omicron variants are really on the rise and there are fears of a really serious surge, but opposition politicians have accused Kais Saied of using COVID as an excuse to stop the demonstrations.”
Despite years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, Saeed’s actions in July initially appeared popular, but analysts say he appears to have lost some support.
Since Syed’s intervention, several senior politicians and business leaders have been detained or charged with the law, often in corruption or defamation cases.
On Tuesday, the country’s News Corp said Tunisian state television had Ban all political parties Entering its buildings or participating in a talk show is a serious setback to press freedom.
With the Tunisian economy still mired in the pandemic and making little progress in garnering international support for its fragile public finances, Saeed’s government, appointed in September, announced an unpopular 2022 budget.
The Tunisian president has begun preparing a new constitution, and he has said he will hold a referendum in July.
Voting will follow an online public consultation that begins in January. Parliamentary elections are also expected to be held by the end of 2022.