Ousted Tunisian PM says ready to hand over power
In his first statement since being ousted by President Kais Saeid, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he would not cling onto power and was ready to hand over his position to whomever Saied chooses.
"I will hand over responsibility to the person who will be entrusted by the president to head the government… in respect of the laws that befit the state," Mechichi said in his statement, which came a day after Saied dismissed him and suspended parliament.
The former premier said he cannot in any way be "a disruptive element" in the current crisis.
Mechichi - who was appointed prime minister in September last year - said he took on the position during the most difficult period experienced by Tunisia in its history, amid a "suffocating economic and social crisis" he blamed on the failure of successive political elites over the years, as well as the handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Mechici said the crises "put me and my government in front of difficult choices between preserving the health of citizens and not affecting their livelihoods, forcing me to take a number of decisions seen as unpopular in the eyes of some, but necessary in light of the limited capabilities of the state".
The president's decision on Sunday came after a prolonged period of deadlock between himself, Mechichi, and the parliament, which has crippled management of the coronavirus crisis and seen Tunisia have one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world.
The decision to suspend parliament and sack Mechichi has drawn criticism from local parties – including Islamists - and some nations which have described it as a coup.