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Timeline: Kais Saied's crackdown in Tunisia, from suspending parliament to arresting Ghannouchi

Tunisian President Kais Saied has been steadily consolidating power since 2021 when he dismissed parliament in a move widely described as a coup. He is now cracking down further on his Islamist political opponents.
Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the U.S. - Africa Leaders Summit on December 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Summit brings together heads of state, government officials, business leaders, and civil society to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Africa. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Tunisian authorities closed the offices of the Islamist opposition party Ennahda on Tuesday. The move represents only the latest effort by President Kais Saied in the past two years to sideline his political opponents and amass power.  

The authorities specifically banned meetings at all Ennahda offices throughout the country. This followed the arrest on Monday evening of Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi. Police also closed the headquarters of the National Salvation Front — a big tent coalition of Saied’s opponents that includes Ennahda, according to Reuters. 

Saied’s tenure as president has been controversial, with some applauding his moves and others calling for his removal and condemning his actions. The following is a timeline of the key events in Saied’s consolidation of power. 

July 2021 - Saied suspended the parliament and dismissed the government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Though Mechichi is an independent, his government was supported by Ennahda. There were protests both in support of and against Saied at the time, as some in Tunisia opposed the government. 

Sept. 2021 - Saied issued a presidential order that effectively allowed him to rule by decree. 

Feb. 2022 - Tunisia’s High Judicial Council was dissolved by Saied. The council was set up following the 2011 revolution in order to supervise the judiciary. 

March 2022 - Saied dissolved Tunisia’s already suspended parliament. 

June 2022 - The president granted himself the right to dismiss judges and fired 57 of them for allegedly having ties to political parties that were protecting terrorism suspects. Tunisian judges went on strike in protest, Mohamed Ali Ltifi reported from Tunis for Al-Monitor then. 

July 22 - A constitutional referendum granting Saied unchecked powers passed overwhelmingly. The vote was marked by a low turnout of around 30%. Opponents of the president alleged that the results were fraudulent, according to Agence France-Presse.

Why it matters: Saied has been accused of dismantling the democracy that emerged in Tunisia following the 2011 revolution and ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. 

“In the course of consolidating his power … Saied has dismantled or imperiled key institutional safeguards for human rights, undoing or threatening to undo landmark gains of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution,” read a July 2022 report from Amnesty International. 

Know more: Tunisia held parliamentary elections in December 2022 and January of this year. The vote was marked by severely low turnout of around 11% in both rounds. Opposition parties framed the low turnout as a rejection of Saied's rule, Alessandra Bajec reported from Tunis for Al-Monitor at the time. 

Protests have continued against Saied's actions this year. Ahead of the action of the Ennahda office closures and arrest of Ghannouchi, authorities arrested other activists, politicians and critical members of the media — perhaps most notably Noureddine Boutar, who heads the popular radio station Mosaique FM. 

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