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Thousands decry president, instability in Tunisia

Several thousand demonstrators gathered in central Tunis on Sunday to protest against President Kaïs Saied's "exceptional measures", which his critics have called a "coup". Following nationwide anti-government protests, on July 25, Saied abruptly dismissed his Prime Minister, took on all executive powers and froze the parliament. On September 22, he reinforced these measures by giving himself the power to rule by decree and partially suspending the 2014 constitution. While Saied's actions have proved widely popular, many are concerned his actions signal a return to the autocracy Tunisians rose up against in 2011, igniting what would be known as the Arab Spring. In recent weeks, thousands of Tunisians have staged tit-for-tat demonstrations each weekend: while many have expressed support for the President, who they see as a corruption fighter, taking on the country's much-hated political elites; others have spoken of their fear that the country is sliding backwards. Police presence had been visibly bolstered for Sunday's demonstration, with police donning riot gear and erecting barriers along the whole of Bourguiba avenue, the main thoroughfare where the protest took place. According to local reports, when police prevented some demonstrators from entering the premises, scuffles broke out when the latter tried to break down the metal barriers. Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Lahyouni said the arrangements were aimed at "ensuring the safety of the demonstrators." During Sunday's demonstration, Aymen Haj Salem, a journalist with the state-run El Watania was injured after protesters targeted him with rocks and water bottles, chanting "media of shame" and accusing him of being pro-Saied. The journalist was transported by emergency services to hospital for treatment. Saied has justified his actions by saying he was forced to action to save the country from a deteriorating triple economic, political and heath crisis. On July 25 he invoked Article 80 of constitution which authorizes him to resort to any necessary measures in the event of "imminent danger" to the country. Two months on, Tunisia remains without a government. Saied appointed a head of government on September 29, Najla Bouden Romdhane, the first woman to hold such a position in the Arab world.

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