Former Tunisian minister placed under house arrest as president continues government shakeup

A former minister and senior member of Tunisia’s Ennahdha party has been placed under house arrest, as President Saied continues his shakeup of the country’s government. Anouar Maarouf, who led Tunisia’s Ministry of Communications and Technology between 2016 and 2020, was arrested on Friday August 6th over allegations of abuse of authority.

Maarouf is only the latest politician to be targeted since President Kais Saied dismissed the Prime Minister on July 25, suspending parliament for 30 days. This initial move came after a series of anti-government protests over the handling of COVID-19 and worsening economic conditions. One such protest saw citizens in Touzeur set fire to a local Ennahdha party headquarters;, while in areas such as Sfax, Monastir, Sousse, and El Kef, protestors attempted to storm the party’s offices.

Since dismissing the Prime Minister, President Saied has gone on to remove a series of other government officials. This includes the army’s chief prosecutor, the ambassador to the US, the CEO of public television channel Wataniya, and the governor of the Sfax province. Major parties labelled such actions a coup, though the President argues he is stepping in to save the country, through a constitutional article empowering the president in grave circumstances.

President Saied’s actions have proven popular with the Tunisian people. A recent poll by Ermrhod Consulting found 87% of those asked support the president’s actions. Iman Khedhri, a wedding cook from Intilaka, Tunis, explains “The MPs don’t care about the people. They fight, they just steal our money. I don’t like parliament at all, Kais Saied is a just man. He will remove the politicians and start something new. I just want him to rule.”

Ennahdha, one of the parties to originally denounce the President’s actions as a coup, has more recently softened its position, thanks in part to the widespread support for Saied’s decision. Party leader Rached Ghannouchi took to Facebook to call the President’s move an opportunity for reform.

Responding to the house arrest of Anouar Maarouf, Ennahdha released a statement in which they call it “an arbitrary decision that affects the right of movement, travel and freedom of expression,” and instruct their legal office to “challenge this decision before the Administrative Court”.

President Saied has appointed a new head to both the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Communications and Technology, Maarouf’s old position, arguing that future ministers of Communications and Technology must not belong to parties who may seek control over citizens’ information.

Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester Branch

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