TUNIS – Tunisian democracy faces its biggest test since the 2011 revolution after President Kais Saied ousted the government and froze parliament late on Sunday, leading to confrontations between his supporters and opponents.
He has invoked emergency powers under Article 80 of the constitution to sack Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, freeze parliament for 30 days, lift the immunity of parliament members and make himself prosecutor general.
The army has helped him by surrounding parliament and the main government palace but the main parties in parliament including the moderate Islamist Ennahda have called his move a coup and say Article 80 does not allow his actions.
These are some scenarios for how the coming days may unfold.
STREET VIOLENCE, CONFRONTATIONS
Supporters of the president — a political independent — and of Ennahda mobilise in the streets across Tunisia, leading to violent confrontations that could draw in security forces and herald an era of instability or prompt a military power grab.
SAIED APOINTS A NEW PREMIER AND RESTORES PARLIAMENT
Saied rapidly names a new prime minister to handle the COVID-19 surge and a looming fiscal crisis. He returns powers to parliament after his 30-day freeze ends and allows normal procedures to resume. New parliamentary elections may follow.
Saied consolidates control over the levers of power and security apparatus, postponing or cancelling a return to the constitutional order and cracking down on the freedoms of speech and assembly won in the 2011 revolution.
CHANGES TO CONSTITUTION AND NEW REFERENDUM, ELECTIONS
Saied uses the crisis to push for what he has called his preferred constitutional settlement – a presidential system based on elections but with a smaller role for parliament. The changes are followed by a referendum on the constitution and new elections.
DIALOGUE AND NEW POLITICAL DEAL
Repeating the pattern of earlier crises after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the political opponents draw back from the brink and agree to seek a compromise through dialogue that includes other players such as the powerful labour union.