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Tunisia's president fires prime minister, freezes Parliament

Tunisian President Kais Saied (C) on Sunday fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechich. Photo courtesy of The Office of the Tunisian President/Twitter
Tunisian President Kais Saied (C) on Sunday fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechich. Photo courtesy of The Office of the Tunisian President/Twitter

July 26 (UPI) -- Tunisia's president has fired the country's prime minister and frozen its Parliament, sending people into the streets of the North African country in celebration.

The office of Tunisian President Kais Saied announced in a statement late Sunday that Prime Minister Hichem Mechich has been relieved of his duties and that Parliament has been frozen for 30 days.

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Saied now assumes the executive authority of the government, which was headed by the prime minister, the statement said, adding that immunity for all Parliament members has been lifted.

"The presidency of the republic calls on the Tunisian people to pay attention and not slip behind the advocates of chaos," it said.

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The announcement was made after Saied chaired an emergency meeting with military and security officials on Sunday, Tunisia's Republic Day.

In a televised statement, Saied told the public that they have taken theses decisions to restore peace and "save the state," The Washington Post reported.

Thousands of people protested earlier Sunday for Parliament to be dissolved amid a downtrodden economy and soaring COVID-19 infections that have attracted anger against the government.

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After the announcement, people took to the streets of the capital Tunis to celebrate despite a coronavirus curfew in place.

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Meanwhile, opponents, particularly members of the Islamist Ennahda Party, comprising the majority in Parliament, accused Saied of organizing a coup, CNBC reported.

Saied himself joined crowds in the capital's iconic Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the historic site of the country's 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising, which resulted in regime change, according to CNBC.

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In response to the coup accusations, Saied has said the suspension of Parliament was legal under Article 80 of the country's Constitution, which allows for such suspension in the face of "imminent danger," The Guardian reported.

Saied also warned against violence in a televised address Sunday, saying the armed forces "will respond with bullets" to "any who think of resorting to weapons ... and whoever shoots a bullet," The Guardian and CNBC reported.

The firing ends more than a year of conflict between the president and prime minister that came to a head last week when Saied ordered the military, one of the institutions he oversees, to take over the country's coronavirus response following issues with walk-in clinics, CNN reported.

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