Tunisia’s Saied reappears in public, dismisses ‘mad’ speculations

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Tunisian President Kais Saied appeared in a video posted Monday on his official Facebook page, dismissing “mad” reports about his health after nearly two weeks without any public appearances.

The North African country’s main opposition coalition had earlier pressed the government to explain Saied’s public “absence”, saying it had information that he was ill.

“These people deserve nothing but contempt,” Saied said in the video, referring to his political rivals.

“The president is absent for two or three days, he gets a cold and that becomes a problem, in a power vacuum?”

Saied, 65, has not been seen in public or at any meetings since March 22, according to a post on Facebook – the Presidency’s only official means of communication.

The lack of statements or videos fueled rumors about Saied’s state of health.

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Najla Bouden, the president said the reports showed “a level of fury never before seen in Tunisia”.

Earlier on Monday, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi of the National Salvation Front opposition coalition told journalists: “We ask the government to face the Tunisian people and say if the president has health problems that have forced him to be absent .”

Chebbi said that Bouden would run Tunisia in the event of a temporary power vacuum, but that a permanent vacancy would cause a “big disaster” for the country due to a legislative void.

In his video, Saied accused anonymous people of “trying to create crises” by talking about a power vacuum.

“These people have lost the plot, they are obsessed with power,” he said.

Saied, who staged a dramatic power grab in July 2021 and has ruled by decree since then, imposed a constitution last year giving his office unlimited powers and neutralizing parliament.

Since February, security forces have arrested over 20 public figures, including prominent members of the opposition.

Among those targeted are members of the once-Islamic-inspired Ennahdha party and political activists, as well as lawyers, businessmen and a radio station leader known for giving a platform to criticism of the president.

Saied publicly accused them of plotting against the state and labeled them “terrorists”.

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