Tunisia Leader Fires Ambassador to US in Rash of Dismissals

FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 file photo, Tunisian President Kais Saied raises his fist to bystanders as he stroll along the avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia. Tunisia remains in limbo more than a week after President Kais Saied fired the prime minister, froze parliament and took on executive powers. Some citizens worried about what comes next, and when it will happen, as pressure for decisions mounts. (Slim Abid/Tunisian Presidency via AP, File)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A day after naming a new economy minister, President Kais Saied on Tuesday added Tunisia’s ambassador to the United States to a rash of dismissals, but he has yet to say who will replace the prime minister he fired less than two weeks ago or when.

Saied, who took on executive powers July 25 and began ruling by decree, has also undertaken globe-spanning consultations, meeting Tuesday with the foreign minister of Egypt, a critical ally in the Middle East.

Local polls say there is large support for Saied’s controversial actions, which importantly included freezing Tunisia’s parliament,

The North African country has been cementing its democracy since chasing out its former autocratic ruler a decade ago, triggering the Arab Spring. Tunisia is the only success story to emerge from those chaotic times, and allies, from the United States to Europe and the Middle East, have worried about what comes next.

Tunisia is coping with economic, social and health crises, with 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.

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

Egypt’s envoy said that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi 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.

The important Economy Ministry got a new acting minister Monday, with the dismissal of Ali Kooli, as did the Communications Technology ministry.

The rash of firings that began when Saied assumed all executive power continued Tuesday. Tunisia’s ambassador to Washington, Nejmeddine Lakhal, was the latest dignitary terminated, the official news agency said. No explanation was given. Also Tuesday, the president fired the governor of the important Sfax region in eastern Tunisia.

Some lawmakers have not been spared, snared by judicial officials on complaints that could not be prosecuted earlier. The president lifted the immunity of the parliamentary body when he took on all powers, and a handful have been summoned to answer to charges they had escaped. 

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