Five political parties in Tunisia issued a joint statement on Friday, September 17, calling upon the military and the judiciary to respect the country’s constitution and uphold the rule of law. The Republican Popular Union Party, Alirada movement party, Popular Will Party, Amal wa ‘Aamal movement and Wafa movement in the statement said that the recent developments in the country had confirmed their fears following the president, Kais Saied’s declaration of emergency, and enactment of Article 80 in July.
The statement comes amid weekend-long protests in the capital Tunis to denounce the president’s actions, demand an end to the state of emergency, and a return to normalcy. It called the measures implemented by the president, including suspending the parliament, dismissing the government and assuming full executive authority “nothing but a pretext to obstruct state institutions, including the elected ones, and an attempt to break pledges and monopolize power.” It further added that “the actions of the President of the Republic constitute nothing but a coup against the constitution, in an adventure with uncalculated consequences.”
The statement asks for state institutions to retain their legitimacy during what they termed was a worsening political crisis, including a disruption in the functioning of various state institutions. They urge judiciary to ensure there is no authority above it except the law and guarantee the rights of freedoms of Tunisians, calling upon the military to not interfere in the country’s politics but sticking to its role of protecting the country. The military’s judiciary was additionally urged not to agree to try civilians in military courts and declare itself invalid when it comes to jurisdiction over civilians. Furthermore, they asked the various political parties and civil society organizations to unite to defend the country’s constitution and all Tunisians to resist getting divided, especially based on the president’s actions and statements.
A day after, on Saturday, September 18, thousands of Tunisians had participated in protests in the center of Tunis, the largest popular protest to have taken place since July. The protesters, surrounded by a large police presence, shouted slogans against the president’s actions such as “Shut down the coup,” “the people want the coup to fail,” and “We want a return to legitimacy.” They carried placards and banners which read “No to coup against state institutions,” “No to retracting from legitimacy” and “The power belongs to the people.”
The protests saw members across political parties, parliamentarians, human rights and political activists, as well as ex-president Moncef Marzouki. Marzouki also described the president’s actions as a “coup” and called for further peaceful protests in front of the municipal theater “in defense of the state and the revolution’s constitution.”