Tunisia police fill city center ahead of protest in defiance of COVID-19 rules

Hundreds of Tunisian police surrounded the downtown area of ​​the capital on Friday ahead of a planned demonstration against the president he had called in defiance of COVID-19-related restrictions.

Opposition parties, including the Islamist Ennahda party, are protesting President Kais Saied’s suspension of parliament, his assumption of executive power, and moves to rewrite the constitution, which they describe as a coup.

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Hours before the protest was scheduled to start, police erected barricades and filled in the area around the central Avenue Habib Bourguiba, for a long time the focus of demonstrations including during the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.

Dozens of police cars stopped in the area and water cannons were installed outside the Ministry of Interior building located on the same street.

Friday’s protest against the ban on all indoor or outdoor gatherings that the government announced on Tuesday to stem the wave of COVID-19 contrasts.

Ennahda and other parties involved in the protest accused the government of imposing the ban and resuming the night curfew for political rather than health reasons as a way to prevent protests.

Police officers search the belongings of Tunisians in the capital, Tunis, January 14, 2022 (AFP)

Although Said’s intervention in July seemed very popular at first after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, analysts say it appears to have lost some support since then.

Tunisia’s economy remains mired in the pandemic, there has been little progress in winning international support for its fragile public finances, and the government appointed by Saïd in September announced an unpopular budget for 2022.

Friday marks what Tunisians once considered the anniversary of the revolution, the day despotic former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country.

However, last year Saied decreed that instead of marking the anniversary of Ben Ali’s departure into exile, there would be commemorations in December for the self-immolation of a street vendor whose suicide triggered the uprising.

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