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Tunisians stage a protest in response to the problems in the health sector in the country, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the parliament in Tunis on July 25. Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced Sunday that he had dismissed the country's prime minister and frozen the parliament amidst mass protests in the country, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The move, which comes on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia's independence, escalates Saied's longstanding feud with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and poses a challenge to the 2014 constitution that "split powers between president, prime minister and parliament," per Reuters.

The latest: The State Department released a statement Monday saying it is monitoring the situation and that it has been in contact with Tunisian government officials to "stress that solutions to Tunisia’s political and economic troubles should be based on the Tunisian constitution and the principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom."

  • "Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains. The United States will continue to stand on the side of Tunisia’s democracy," the statement concludes.

The big picture: Saied defended his decision as in line with the constitution and said he would assume executive authority alongside a new prime minister, per Reuters.

  • Saied also suspended the legal immunity of members of parliament.

State of play: Hours earlier, Tunisia was rocked by mass protests in several cities that were fueled by public dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the coronavirus and a worsening economic crisis, Reuters reports.

  • In several cities, protesters and police clashed violently, as crowds stormed the offices of Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament, while demanding the prime minister's resignation and the dissolution of parliament, according to Al Jazeera.
  • Sunday's protests were the largest in months and the biggest to target Ennahda in years, per Reuters.

What they're saying: "Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery and robbery of the rights of the people," Saied said in a statement on state media, per Reuters.

  • "I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets," Saied added.

The speaker of Tunisia's parliament and the leader of the Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi told Reuters that the president had launched a "coup against the revolution and constitution."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Iraq elections boost nationalist al-Sadr at expense of pro-Iran bloc

Al-Sadr supporters celebrate in Baghdad. Photo: Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Abu Dhabi — Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged from Sunday's parliamentary elections as the leading figure in Iraqi politics.

Why it matters: Al-Sadr has positioned himself as a bulwark against foreign interference in Iraq. He has a history of violent opposition to U.S. forces in the country but has more recently proved adept at presenting himself to regional and international partners as a more palatable alternative to pro-Iranian rivals.

Updated Oct 4, 2021 - World

Japan's Parliament elects Fumio Kishida as prime minister

Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after winning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election on Sept. 29 in Tokyo. Photo: Du Xiaoyi - Pool/Getty Images

Japan's Parliament elected Fumio Kishida as the country's new prime minister on Monday.

Why it matters: The former foreign minister faces immediate challenges, including reviving the world's third-largest economy and working with the U.S. and other key allies to address security threats, per the Wall Street Journal.

Updated 38 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.