Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets of the capital Tunis on Saturday in protest at President Kais Saied who they blame for a severe economic crisis including food shortages and soaring inflation.
The march was organised by the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties including the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha that had dominated Tunisia’s parliament before its dissolution by Saied.
Many protesters chanted “Go away, go away,” “Revolt against Kais the dictator,” and “the people want to sack the president.”
Tunisia’s debt far exceeds the GDP of the country and the government is now negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan of about two billion dollars.
Basic products such as flour, sugar and coffee are in short supply and crises such as Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine have increased the cost of imports such as cereals.
The country has also been hampered by a serious political crisis since President Saied seized full power in July 2021.
Saied staged a dramatic power grab in July last year and later pushed through a constitution enshrining his one-man rule, in what critics have called a return to autocracy in the only democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring.
All Laarayedh, Tunisia’s former prime minister and a senior Ennahdha official, said the protest was an expression of “anger at the state of affairs under Kais Saied”.
Saied’s power grab was welcomed by some Tunisians tired of what they saw as a fractious and corrupt system established after the 2011 revolution that ousted late dictator Zine El Abidine Ali.