Country's biggest political party, Ennahda, orders its supporters not to resume a sit-in outside parliament, in a reversal of an earlier call by its leader Rached Ghannouchi to take to the streets.

Members of Tunisian security forces face off with anti-government demonstrators during a rally in front of the Parliament in the capital Tunis on July 25, 2021.
Members of Tunisian security forces face off with anti-government demonstrators during a rally in front of the Parliament in the capital Tunis on July 25, 2021. (AFP)

Tunisia's biggest party, Ennahda, has called for political dialogue to get the country out of crisis after it accused the president of a coup after he sacked the prime minister and suspended parliament.

Opponents of President Kais Saied, said late on Tuesday they were ready for early elections while warning against an "autocratic regime".

The moderate religious Ennahdha party, which was the strongest group in the coalition government, has labelled Sunday's power grab a "coup d'etat", while the US, EU, Turkey and other powers have also voiced strong concern.

Ennahdha on Tuesday said that, "for the sake of the democratic path", it is "ready to go to early legislative and presidential elections" while warning "that any delay is not used as a pretext to maintain an autocratic regime".

The party also accused Saied of having "worked with undemocratic forces to overturn the constitutional rights of elected officials, and replace them with members of his own chosen cabal".

Noureddine B'Hiri, a senior Ennahdha leader, said the party had "decided to campaign peacefully to defeat" the president's plans, saying "national solidarity" was needed.

But before any elections, "parliament should resume its activities and the military end its control", B'Hiri told AFP.

Earlier on Tuesday after Ennahda issued instructions to its supporters through party branches not to resume a sit-in outside parliament and to avoid protests, in a reversal of an earlier call by its leader Rached Ghannouchi to take to the streets.

Though some senior party members wanted to retain a street presence, its leaders decided to avoid any further escalation and allow a period of calm, two Ennahda officials said. 

The area outside the parliament building, the site on Monday of confrontations between hundreds of supporters of Ennahda and Saied, was empty on Tuesday morning. 

Ennahda's supporters left the parliament on Monday evening and have not returned. 

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Saied meets with council

Meanwhile, Tunisian President Kais Saied called on his countrymen not to heed calls for chaos, amid tension over his recent move to sack the prime minister and assume all executive powers.

Do not "fall behind those who advocate for chaos", Saied was quoted as saying during a meeting with representatives of the Supreme Judicial Council on Monday evening.

The Tunisian Presidency said in a separate statement that Saied reiterated during the meeting his respect of the constitution and the rule of law.

The statement said he expressed "his keenness to respect the constitution and its requirements, to impose the law on everyone, and to guarantee the independence of the judiciary at this delicate stage in Tunisia's history".

The statement also underlined the independence of the judicial authority ''and the necessity to distance it from all political disputes''.

''Judges are independent and no one has authority over them except the law,'' it said.

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Worst crisis in a decade

On Sunday, President Kais Saied announced that he had suspended the powers of the Tunisian parliament as well as its deputies' immunity, dismissed PM Hichem Mechichi and said he would assume executive powers with a premier he would appoint.

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

The move was rejected by most of Tunisia’s parliamentary blocs, including Ennahda, Heart of Tunisia, The Dignity Coalition, and the People's Movement.

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'Full-fledged coup'

Following Saied’s decisions, Ghannouchi described Saied's move as nothing but a "full-fledged coup" against the Tunisian constitution, revolution, and freedoms in the country.

Ghannouchi urged Tunisians to defend the revolution.

Saied denied allegations that he was fomenting a coup.

On Monday afternoon, the presidency announced the dismissals of Defence Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Hasna Ben Slimane, the acting justice minister.

Soldiers from early on Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis while Saied backers hurled stones, bottles and insults at supporters of Ennahda, whose leader was barred entry to the complex.

Troops also surrounded the office of Mechichi.

Later in the afternoon, the protests died down, with the presidency extending an overnight curfew in place to combat the coronavirus and banning gatherings of more than three people.

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

Source: TRTWorld and agencies