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Tunisia’s parliament suspended indefinitely a month after country’s president sacked prime minister

Tunisia’s parliament suspended indefinitely a month after country’s president sacked prime minister
Tunisian President Kais Saied has formally issued a decree extending the current suspension of parliament and lifting of immunity for lawmakers “until further notice” ahead of a planned public address in the next few days.

The legislative body was initially suspended in July, when the country’s prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, was dismissed after nationwide protests over the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic turned violent. Despite pledging at the time to appoint a replacement for Mechichi within days, Saied has not yet replaced the head of the country’s government.

The president’s statement, released late on Monday, did not provide any information about when parliament might be reconvened, who could form the next government, or what he will announce in his speech to the Tunisian people.

“A presidential decree extending the exceptional measures… regarding the suspension of parliament and lifting of the parliamentary immunity of its MPs until further notice,” his statement said.

Saied initially claimed that Article 80 of Tunisia’s constitution allows him to use “exceptional measures” to remove the government if the country faces an imminent threat. However, Article 80 actually states that, if implemented, the decision must be referred to the country’s constitutional court, which currently remains vacant.

Following Saied’s original decree, opponents of the Tunisian leader have accused him of wielding “arbitrary” and “unjustified” powers to secure greater control over the country and limit the ability of his critics to stand up against his presidency.

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Prior to the Tunisian president’s decision to dismiss the prime minister, Mechichi had fired the health minister, Faouzi Mehdi, blaming him for the failures that had caused Covid cases to soar nationwide.

Since the start of the pandemic, Tunisia has recorded 640,897 confirmed cases of Covid, with 22,537 fatalities, according to data provided to the World Health Organization as of August 23. In the nation of 11.69 million people, so far, only 4.7 million doses of a Covid vaccine have been administered.

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