Tunisia’s main opposition Ennahda party has called for supporters to protest on Friday against President Kais Saied, defying a government decision to ban all gatherings.
The government said earlier it was re-imposing a night curfew, banning all gatherings for two weeks and discouraging people from travelling abroad to stop the rapid spread of Covid-19 cases.
Ennahda said it will protest against “the nascent dictatorship that perpetuates the monopoly of power and authority and seeks to strike the free judiciary.”
Tunisia was the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts of a decade ago but civil society groups and Saied’s opponents have expressed fear of a slide back to authoritarianism a decade after the revolution that toppled longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Saied on July 25 sacked the Ennadha-supported government and suspended parliament, presenting himself as the ultimate interpreter of the constitution.
Saied has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that ushered in democracy.
However, he has brushed aside the democratic 2014 constitution and given himself powers to rule by decree during a transitional period in which he will offer a new constitution to public referendum.
Ennahda, which has the largest number of seats in the suspended parliament, was banned before the revolution but then became the most consistently influential party afterwards and a member of successive coalition governments.
However, as Tunisia’s economy stagnated and its political system ground to paralysis in recent years, support for the party waned and although it came first in the 2019 parliamentary elections it won far fewer votes than in previous years.