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Tunisian president appoints staunch ally as interior minister

Kais Saied has named Kamal Feki, former governor of Tunis, to replace Taoufik Charfeddine, who resigned on Friday
Tunisia's President Kais Saied attends the new government swearing-in ceremony at Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis, September 2020 (AFP)

Tunisian President Kais Saied named the former governor of Tunis, Kamal Feki, as his new interior minister on Friday.

The appointment came just hours after Taoufik Charfeddine resigned from the post, amid a crackdown on prominent opposition figures that has prompted international condemnation, Reuters reported.

Feki, one of Saied's staunchest supporters, refused to grant a protest permit to the opposition Salvation Front coalition, saying that its leaders were involved in plotting against state security. Nevertheless, the interior ministry went ahead and allowed them to protest.

Saied's ally criticised the opposition several times, branding them "immoral and weightless". 

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Charfeddine resigned earlier in the day, citing family reasons. Seen at one stage as the closest Tunisian official to the president, he had in recent months appeared less frequently in public.

Speaking to reporters in comments broadcast on local media, Charfeddine referred to the death of his wife last year and his need to look after his children.

Saied has taken increasing control over security forces since July 2021, when he dismissed the government of the country's former prime minister, Hichem Mechichi. Saied shut down the parliament and moved to rule by decree before writing a new constitution that he passed last year.

Charfeddine also served as interior minister under Mechichi, who sacked him in January 2021 as relations between the president and prime minister broke down. Saied reappointed him after dismissing Mechichi and seizing most of his powers.

Over recent weeks, Tunisian authorities have detained prominent opposition figures who accuse Saied of a coup, charging them with conspiring against state security.

Police have also carried out a crackdown on African migrants lacking residence permits, with rights groups accusing them of detaining hundreds and turning a blind eye to racist attacks.

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