Tunisia’s president fires ambassador to US, governor of Sfax

No explanation is given for fresh wave of dismissals by President Kais Saied who has been ruling by decree since late July.

President Kais Saied has fired Tunisia’s ambassador to the United States and the governor of a key province, the latest dismissals since he provoked a political crisis last month when he assumed all executive power.

In a series of shock moves on July 25, Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament for 30 days. He also began ruling by decree, went on to dismiss several officials and announced a crackdown against corruption.

On Tuesday, state media announced the sacking of Ambassador Nejmeddine Lakhal, without citing an explanation for the move. The governor of the eastern Sfax province was also dismissed.

It came a day after the economy ministry got a new acting minister on Monday, following the dismissal of Ali Kooli, as did the communications technology ministry.

Local polls say there is large support for Saied’s controversial actions, which were denounced as a “coup” by the country’s main political parties – an allegation the president denied.

The North African country has been cementing its democracy since the mass protests that chased out its former strongman ruler in 2011, triggering the so-called Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Long described as the only success story to emerge from those chaotic times, Tunisia is currently facing growing economic, social, and health crises, with citizens seeing their living standards plummeting and the coronavirus pandemic overwhelming its hospitals.

Saied, using an article in the constitution that allows a president to step in under grave circumstances, has said he did so to save the country.

The turmoil has unnerved Western allies but a number of regional countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have affirmed their confidence in and support for Tunisia’s leadership.

Also on Tuesday, Saied held a meeting with the foreign minister of Egypt, a critical ally in the Middle East.

In his meeting with Sameh Shoukry, the president highlighted “the correlation between Egypt’s and Tunisia’s security and stability”, the official TAP news agency said.

Egypt’s envoy said President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi backed Saied’s moves with “his full support for the historic steps” of the Tunisian leader, TAP added.

“Egypt and Tunisia are working together to ensure stability not only in the two countries but also across the region,” the agency quoted the foreign minister as saying after the meeting.

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