Tunisia has lurched further into political uncertainty after President Kais Saied dismissed more officials, just days after he sacked the prime minister, froze Parliament and assumed executive powers.
After suspending Parliament and sacking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday, and firing the defence and justice ministers a day later, Saied ordered the dismissal of several top officials late on Tuesday.
The 63-year-old president, a former law lecturer and political newcomer who won a landslide 2019 presidential election victory, issued decrees sacking a long list of senior government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor.
On Wednesday, he dismissed the CEO of national television channel Wataniya.
In addition, he has lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers and assumed judicial powers. He has also ordered an investigation into three political parties suspected of receiving foreign funds before the elections in 2019.
Key civil society groups warned in a joint statement against any “illegitimate” extension of Saied’s 30-day suspension of Parliament, and demanded a timeline for political action.
Am Kimball, a journalist in Tunis, told newsmen that Saied claims that close to $5bn have been looted from the country by various means.
“He says he’s got a list of several hundred people who are accused of looting the country’s wealth – those largely being politicians and members of parliament whose immunity he removed on Sunday night,” Kimball said.
“He [Saied] said the country is not a beggar country and deserves a better future.”
Kimball said the president’s actions seem to be a move to “reassure those who may have doubts over the extreme measures” he has taken over the last several days.
The president said his actions were justified under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an “imminent threat”.