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'Where is President Saied?': Opposition

FILE: People protest against president Kais Saied policies, in Tunis, Tunisia, March 5, 2023. Thousands of people marched through Tunisia's capital March 4, decrying an expanding crackdown on opposition voices and a proposed lifting of subsidies for food and other goods.

TUNIS - Tunisia's main opposition coalition pressed the government on Monday to explain a days-long public "absence" of President Kais Saied, saying it had information that he was sick.

President Saied, 65, has not appeared in public or held any meetings since March 22, according to posts on his Facebook page - the presidency's only official channel of communication.

The lack of statements or videos has sparked rumors over the state of Saied's health.

"We ask the government to address the Tunisian people and say if the president has health problems that have forced him to be absent," Ahmed Nejib Chebbi of the National Salvation Front opposition coalition told journalists.

He said the NSF had been "informed from day one that President Saied was suffering from health problems, but did not react, as anyone can have a temporary health problem".

Chebbi said Prime Minister Najla Bouden would run Tunisia in the event of a temporary power vacuum, but that a permanent vacancy would present the country with a "great catastrophe" due to a legislative void.

Saied, who staged a dramatic power grab in July 2011 and has since ruled by decree, last year rammed through a constitution giving his office unlimited powers and neutering parliament.

Under the new document, were Saied to be incapacitated, the president of the Constitutional Court would run the country pending a new presidential election -- but the court has not yet been created.

Chebbi said Saied's health "concerns all Tunisians", and that in the event he is incapacitated, Tunisia should hold "serious and open consultations so that the Tunisian people and the civil and political forces agree on a power transfer mechanism."