CAIRO: The leader of Tunisia’s main Islamist political party performed a dramatic U-turn on Wednesday and threw his weight behind President Kais Saied.
“We will support President Saied and do what contributes to his success, including our willingness to make sacrifices in order to preserve the country’s stability and the continuation of democracy,” Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi said.
“We are waiting for the president’s roadmap, and there is no solution except through dialogue under his supervision. We received the message of our people, and the Ennahda movement is open to a review of its policies.”
Ghannouchi, who is also Speaker of the Tunisian parliament, said he expected the assembly to interact “positively” with the new government when the president proposes it.
The Islamist leader has reversed his position from July 25, when President Saied invoked emergency powers under the constitution after months of political deadlock and disputes with Ennahda, the largest party in parliament.
Saied suspended the assembly for 30 days, dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and other senior ministers, removed immunity from prosecution enjoyed by parliament members, and ordered a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The president acted amid widespread street protests against Ennahda over economic hardship and Tunisia’s failure to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saied said he had “taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people.”
He said his actions were a constitutional and popular response to years of economic and political paralysis, and the constitution gave him power to dismiss the government, appoint a temporary administration, freeze parliament and lift the immunity of its members.
At the time, Ghannouchi said the president’s actions amounted to a coup and were “an assault on democracy,” and called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest.
However, opinion polls indicated that 87 percent of Tunisians backed the president, and thousands took part in demonstrations in his support.
“We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Ayman, one of the president’s supporters.
Opposition to the president melted away when dismissed Prime Minister Mechichi said he would not be a disruptive element, and would hand the responsibility to whoever the president chose. He was ready to serve Tunisia in any role, Mechichi said.