Supporters of Tunisia’s ruling party took to the streets on Saturday in one of the largest protests the country has seen in years.
Witnesses said thousands of supporters of the Islamic conservative Ennahda party travelled to the capital Tunis, after the party had called for a “march for the defence of democratic institutions.”
The demonstrators called for “national unity” and “political stability,” state news agency TAP reported.
In its call to protest, Ennahda said Tunisia had seen “irresponsible behaviour” in the past months which “disturbed the democratic process,” sowing an “atmosphere of doubt and insecurity” with regard to state institutions.
The backdrop of the protests is a deepening political crisis as President Kais Saied opposes the restructuring of the Cabinet under Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, which the parliament has already approved.
The protests are meant to strengthen Mechichi and demonstrate the power of Ennahda, the country’s largest party.
There have been anti-government protests in the past weeks with hundreds of arrests, according to the Interior Ministry. The protesters accuse the government of corruption and condemn police violence.
Meanwhile, the country is also grappling with the biggest economic recession since its independence in 1956, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Last year, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrunk by approximately 8.2 per cent, and unemployment rose to 17 per cent.
Tunisia slowdown comes amid unrest and attacks by militant insurgents since the uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Tunisia’s uprising inspired the Arab Spring revolts of 2010-11.