Sep 27, 2021 15:17 UTC

Thousands of protesters have rallied in the Tunisian capital to voice their anger at President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers, calling on him to resign and demanding the constitution be respected.

Saeid dispensed with much of the 2014 constitution last week, granting himself the power to rule, two months after he sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament and assumed executive power.

According to Press TV, his opponents have condemned the move as a coup.

“The people want the fall of the coup," chanted the crowd in Tunis on Sunday under a heavy police presence, asking the president to “step down.”

The crisis is seen as undermining the democratic gains of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, which triggered what became known as the Islamic Awakening protests.

Nadia Ben Salem, one of the protesters in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, said she had traveled 500 kilometers from the south to express her anger. “We will protect democracy...the constitution is a red line,” she said.

Despite the protests, Saied has his own supporters among Tunisians. Some staged a counterprotest on Sunday. Police separated the two sides to prevent potential clashes.

Saied has defended his controversial move, saying it was necessary to address a crisis of political paralysis, economic stagnation, and the poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has promised to establish “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.”

Political analysts say the protests risk further dividing Tunisia if the door to political dialogue remains closed.

Tunisia's largest and the powerful political party, Ennahda, has called for people to stay together and defend democracy in "a tireless, peaceful struggle."

More than 100 prominent officials of the party resigned on Saturday in protest at Saied’s performance.