Tunisia has been witnessing worst crisis in a decade of its democracy on Monday after the country's president ousted the government and suspended parliament.

Iran PressAfrica: The action of Kais Saied followed months of deadlock and disputes pitting him against Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and a fragmented parliament, as Tunisia descended into an economic crisis exacerbated by one of Africa's worst COVID-19 outbreaks, Reuters reported.

The crisis morphed into heated street confrontations as Saied's critics warned he was endangering the democratic system introduced after the 2011 Islamic Awakening uprising.

Saied invoked emergency powers under the constitution late on Sunday to dismiss Mechichi and suspend parliament for 30 days.

After the parliament speaker called for protests against the ousting, Saied extended existing COVID-19 restrictions on movement on Monday and vowed any violent opposition will be met with force. 

The president also urged people not to go into the streets. "I call on the Tunisian people to stay calm and not respond to provocations," he said.


Feuding sides take to streets

Rival groups faced off outside the parliament building on Monday, pelting each other with stones and hurling insults, but the size of the protests was limited to hundreds, and there were no major reported incidents of violence.

The military surrounded the parliament and government palace, stopping members of parliament and state workers from entering the buildings, as well as the national television station. Al-Jazeera said police raided its Tunis bureau and expelled staff.

President Saied also reinforced a long existing rule that bans public gatherings of three or more people in streets or squares.

Saied's intervention followed protests in major cities on Sunday over the government's handling of the pandemic, with a spike in cases, and economy.

With it's economy shrank 8% last year, Tunisia has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the region. On Monday, Tunisia's hard-currency bonds tumbled.


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Tunisian president sacks prime minister, suspends parliament