The Tunisian president has fired more officials days after ousting parliament and ousting the prime minister, throwing the country into further political uncertainty and raising more questions about the rule of law.
President Kais Saied fired parliament and fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday. Just a day later, the defense and justice ministers were fired. Then on Tuesday, he fired several top officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor.
On Wednesday, the CEO of the national television channel Wataniya was fired from the office.
In addition, Saied has waived parliamentary immunity from legislators and taken legal powers into his hands. He also ordered an inquiry into the three main political parties in parliament after they accused the president of carrying out the coup, a claim that was widely repeated around the world. The probe claimed that all three parties received foreign funds before the 2019 election.
Four days after the coup, Saied accused 460 businessmen of embezzlement. He threw away the “bad financial choices” made in recent years during a meeting with a leader of the UTICA employers’ association. In his remarks late Wednesday, the president for criticism singled out “those who plunder public money.”
Saied accused businessmen of owing the state 13.5 billion dinars ($ 4.9 billion), citing the findings of a commission of inquiry into transplants under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“This money must be returned to the Tunisian people,” he said, adding that he intended to offer businessmen “legal arbitration.”
Saied also called on retailers and wholesalers to “lower prices” in a country where soaring inflation has eaten away at consumers’ purchasing power. He also called for a revival of phosphate production, one of the country’s few natural resources and a common agricultural fertilizer.
The President also announced the establishment of a crisis unit to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, overseen by a senior military officer.
Tunisia is facing a new peak in the pandemic that has aroused public anger in recent weeks.
The North African country of about 12 million people has one of the worst COVID-19 deaths in the world, with 19,000 deaths linked to coronavirus. After months of political crisis, Saied seized power by invoking the constitution.
The move was condemned as a coup by his main opponents, including the powerful Ennahdha movement. Important civil society groups in a joint statement opposed the “illegal” extension of Saied’s 30-day suspension from parliament, while world leaders called on Saied to respect the constitution, institutions and the rule of law.