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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

Aug 24, 2021 - World

WHO says it only has enough medical supplies in Afghanistan to last a week

Children from Kunduz sleep on a cloth covering the hard ground in the darkness of the makeshift camp at Shahr-e-Naw Park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 14. Photo: Marcus Yam/LOS ANGELES TIMES

The World Health Organization only has enough medical supplies on the ground in Afghanistan to last a week, after shipments of supplies were blocked due to restrictions at the Kabul airport, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: An estimated 18 million Afghans, roughly half the total population, were in need of humanitarian assistance as of last month.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

3 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.