Tunisian President Kais Saied announced a month-long curfew one day after he dismissed the prime minister.
Tunisians woke on Tuesday to draconian restrictions including a nationwide curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and a ban on gatherings of more than three people in public places.
The new restrictions, announced by presidential order, prohibit the movement of people between cities outside times of curfew, except for basic needs or for urgent health reasons, the Guardian wrote.
The dismissed prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, said he would hand power to the person chosen by the president, in his first comments since the shock move.
“In order to preserve the safety of all Tunisians, I declare that I align myself, as I have always, by the side of our people, and declare that I will not take up any position or responsibility in the state,” said Mechichi in a statement on Facebook.
Saied, an independent without a party behind him, invoked emergency powers under the Constitution late on Sunday to dismiss Mechichi. He later sacked the justice and defence ministers, and suspended parliament for 30 days. Saied vowed any violent opposition would be met with force.
The European Union on Tuesday called for a speedy return to political stability in Tunisia.
“The European Union is following developments in Tunisia with the greatest attention,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“We call for the restoration of institutional stability as soon as possible, and in particular for the resumption of parliamentary activity, respect for fundamental rights and an abstention from all forms of violence.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with the Tunisian leader, encouraging him “to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights that are the basis of governance in Tunisia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Blinken also asked that Saied “maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people”.
Tunisia’s mishandling of the pandemic has served as a lightning rod for longstanding popular discontent with parliamentary politics. Thousands of people defied COVID-19 restrictions and scorching summer temperatures in demonstrations which sparked clashes with security forces in several cities on Sunday, ahead of Saied’s announcement.
More than 18,000 people in the country of 12 million have died of coronavirus since the pandemic began, overwhelming crumbling public health services and crippling the vital tourism industry.
To date, just 7% of the population has been fully vaccinated, while more than 90% of the country’s ICU beds are occupied, according to Health Ministry figures. Videos have circulated on social media showing dead bodies left in the middle of wards as morgues struggle to deal with growing deaths.
Support for the president’s decision was shown as people took the streets and called for the dissolution of parliament.
The powerful Tunisian General Labour Union, which played a key role in the 2011 uprising, said the president had acted “in accordance” with the Constitution to “prevent imminent danger and to restore the normal functioning” of the state.
Tunisia’s president imposes month-long curfew, bans gatherings