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Tunisian President Kais Saied dissolved parliament this week after lawmakers held an online session to repeal decrees that he used last year to assume near-total power, Reuters reported Thursday.
More than half of all legislators took part in an online parliamentary session Wednesday, the first since Saied suspended parliament in July.
The president accused lawmakers of a failed coup and a conspiracy against state security. He also ordered an investigation into these legislators, which observers noted would mark a major escalation between Saied and his opponents.
Saied’s critics have accused him of instigating a coup last year: Saied suspended parliament, saying his actions were constitutional and essential to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of corrupt politicians.
Since then, he has brushed aside the 2014 constitution and moved to rule by decree. The president has also taken control of the judiciary and is currently forming a committee to rewrite the constitution, which will be put to a referendum in July.
But lawmakers and critics noted that the current constitution stipulates that parliament must remain in session during any kind of exceptional period. It also says dissolving the legislature should trigger a new election.
Saied had previously pledged to hold new elections in December but other politicians are urging him to call elections within three months.
The latest development further underscores fears that Tunisia is losing its democratic achievements following the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Major Western funders have urged Saied to return to democracy and a constitutional-led government, while many of the president’s supporters have grown disillusioned with the leader.