President Kais Saied imposes a month-long curfew as Tunisia's young democracy faces its worst crisis in a decade after the north African country's leader ousted the government and suspended parliament.

Blinken, in a phone call on Monday with Tunisian President Kais Saied, encouraged him
Blinken, in a phone call on Monday with Tunisian President Kais Saied, encouraged him "to adhere to the principles of democracy". (Jonathan Ernst/Pool / Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone call with Tunisian President Kais Saied, has encouraged him "to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights." 

Blinken "urged President Saied to maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people, noting that the United States would continue to monitor the situation and stay engaged," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Monday. 

On Monday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the US is concerned about developments in Tunisia and urged calm in the country.

Tunisia's young democracy faces its worst crisis in a decade on Monday after President Kais Saied ousted the government and suspended parliament with help from the army, a move condemned as a coup by the main parties.

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His action followed months of deadlock and disputes putting him against Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and a fragmented parliament as Tunisia descended into an economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are concerned about the developments in Tunisia," Psaki said at a news briefing.

"We are in touch at a senior level from both the White House and the State Department with Tunisian leaders to learn more about the situation, urge calm and support Tunisian efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles," she added.

Psaki said the White House has not made a determination on whether it was a coup, adding that it was looking to the US State Department to conduct a legal analysis before making a determination.

Curfew imposed

President Kais Saied prohibited the movement of people and vehicles from 7 pm until 6 am, starting Monday and lasting until August 27, with the exception of urgent health cases and night workers, the presidency said on Monday in a statement posted on Facebook.

The presidential order also prohibited the movement of people and vehicles between cities outside times of curfew, except to fulfill basic needs or for urgent health reasons. 

READ MORE: A separation of powers lies at the heart of Tunisia's crisis

It also banned the gathering of more than three people on public roads or in public squares.

The crisis follows months of deadlock between the president, the premier and Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi, which has crippled the Covid-19 response, as deaths have surged to one of the world's highest per capita rates.

More than 18,000 people have died of coronavirus in a nation of 12 million.

Source: Reuters