Tunisia’s UGTT criticises president’s road map out of crisis

The trade union says the president’s proposal will not guarantee Tunisia’s return to democracy.

President Kais Saied stands in front of the Tunisian flag.
President Kais Saied last month announced a road map out of the political crisis [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Tunisia’s powerful General Labour Union (UGTT) has criticised President Kais Saied’s road map out of political crisis, saying it did not go far enough.

Last month, President Saied announced a plan to move past the political crisis that has paralysed the country since he suspended parliament, dismissed the prime minister and assumed executive authority last year.

It includes a constitutional referendum, to be held on July 25 following an online public consultation that will start in January, and parliamentary elections at the end of 2022.

“Setting a date for elections is an important step to end the exceptional situation, but it does not break with individual rule and exclusion”, the union said on Tuesday in its first comment on the president’s plan.

Saied, who is seeking to bolster his authority, has called on citizens to send suggestions through electronic platforms from January 1 to March 20 as part of a wide-ranging national consultation process that will help in drafting a new constitution.

The UGTT, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 as part of the National Dialogue Quartet and represents one million workers, said the online consultation may lead to a monopoly of power and the abolition of the opposition.

“We call [on the government] to resume social dialogue, launch negotiations on the wages of civil servants and begin to tackle basic issues in a participatory manner,” it said.

Last month, the UGTT called for early elections, saying it was concerned for the country’s democratic gains because of the president’s reluctance to announce a plan for political reforms.

In a speech on national television on December 13, Saied announced a reform package and promised to hold a constitutional referendum.

Saied’s one-man mission to rebuild Tunisia’s broken political structures has sparked accusations that he is establishing a new dictatorship in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The envoys of seven Western countries plus the European Union last month urged Tunisia to respect “fundamental freedoms” and set a timeline for a return to democratic institutions.

Saied’s power grab in July 2021 won support from many Tunisians tired of political parties seen as deeply corrupt and incapable of solving the country’s deep social and economic woes.

He has since faced mass demonstrations and growing accusations that he is becoming a new dictator.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies