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Mixed signals from Arab govts as Tunisia is roiled by political turmoil

Tunisian Party Supporters Mass protests caused President Saied to dissolve parliament and fire Prime Minister

Thu, 29 Jul 2021 Source: GNA

While some Arab governments have reacted with vague statements to the political turmoil in Tunisia, the country’s worst in a decade, others have remained silent so far.

On Sunday, Tunisian President Kais Saied froze parliament and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi amid deepening political and economic crises in the North African country that inspired the Arab Spring revolts of 2010-11.

Tunisia has been widely seen as the sole democratic success story of the Arab uprisings.

Saied, an ex-law professor, defended his moves, saying they were in line with the constitution, while his opponents, mainly the Islamist Ennahda movement, denounced them as a coup.

In recent months, Saied, who took office in 2019, has been locked in a political dispute over the powers of the government and parliament.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has termed the situation in Tunisia as an internal and sovereignty issue.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the monarchy "sides with whatever enhances sisterly Tunisia’s security and stability."

While Egypt has made no official comment yet on Tunisian tensions, the Egyptian pro-government media mostly portrayed Saied’s moves as aimed to save Tunisia from Ennahda, seen as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2013, the Egyptian army, led by incumbent President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected-but-divisive leader, following mass protests against his rule.

The Muslim Brotherhood is now banned in Egypt and its major regional allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Gulf monarchies have traditionally accused Islamists of fomenting discord and attempting to seize power.

Tunisia on Tuesday said its Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi had explained the country's latest developments in separate calls with his Egyptian, Saudi and Kuwaiti counterparts.

"The [Arab] brothers stressed their backing of Tunisia in these delicate circumstances and confidence in its ability to overcome challenges of the current stage in a way preserving its security and stability," the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said, without details.

Qatar, often accused by Arab critics as a sponsor of Islamists, has called on Tunisian factions to avoid escalation and allow the "voice of wisdom to prevail."

The Arab League, a regional bloc, meanwhile said it hopes "Tunisia will swiftly overcome the current turbulent phase."

Tunisia has experienced an economic slowdown due to public unrest and attacks by militant insurgents since its uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

The country’s economic woes have recently been compounded by a surge in coronavirus cases.

As part of his contested moves, Saied also announced he would act as Tunisia’s chief prosecutor.

Tunisian investigators have opened an inquiry into claims that Ennahda, the country’s largest political party, and the liberal Qalb Tounes Party had illegally received foreign money, a judicial official said on Wednesday.

The probe comes in response to a legal complaint filed by the Democratic Current Party, seen as close to Saied, a spokesman for the first instance court in the capital, Mohsen Daly, added.

An investigative judge handling the case can order a travel ban and an asset freeze against suspects, Daly said, without details.

Source: GNA