Tunisia union warns against president 'concentrating powers'

Tunisia union warns against president 'concentrating powers'
2 min read
25 September, 2021
Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union warned Friday against threats to the country's democracy after President Kais Saied implemented rule by decree and suspended parts of the constitution.
Tunisia union warns against president 'concentrating powers' [Getty]

Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union warned Friday against threats to the country's democracy after President Kais Saied implemented rule by decree and suspended parts of the constitution.

The UGTT, which played a key role in the country's move towards democracy after its 2011 Arab Spring uprising, warned in a statement against "the dangers of concentrating all powers in the hands of the president".

It renewed its "call for the rapid formation of a government with full powers, able to tackle a complex situation made yet more complex and critical due to the exceptional measures" taken by Saied.

The president on July 25 sacked the government, suspended parliament and lifted lawmakers' immunity, before moving this week to rule by decree.

He has yet to name a government or lay out a political roadmap, but has indicated he will seek a new constitution and has long called for a presidential system.

While foreign observers saw his moves as a blow to the country's fledgling democracy, a rare success story from the Arab Spring uprisings, many Tunisians frustrated with the country's political parties and grinding economic crisis welcomed them.

They were backed by the UGTT, which repeated Friday that the steps were "a historic opportunity to break with a decade of failure, setbacks, chaos, corruption and terrorism".

But it warned against "attempts to use the failures of this decade as a pretext" for the concentration of power.

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Saied, a political outsider, came to power in 2019 on a wave of public outrage against political parties widely seen as corrupt and self-serving.

The austere legal academic has since shown little appetite for negotiation or compromise, even in the midst of the country's social and health crises.

The UGTT, which is credited with helping to prevent the North African nation sliding into chaos after the Arab Spring uprising, said any changes to the constitution should be the result of a "broad dialogue".

"Amendments to the constitution and the electoral law are issues that affect all parts of society," it said.

It rejected "monopolisation of these amendments by the president, which is a danger to democracy".

The powerful labour movement emerged as the main mediator between Islamists and the mostly secular opposition in efforts to establish a democratic foothold following the 2011 revolution.

It was part of a quartet that won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its "decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia".