Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union has 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.
UGTT leader Noureddine Taboubi’s comments on Sunday, in a speech to thousands of his supporters, piled additional pressure on President Kais Saied, more than four months after he seized all political powers.
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“We supported July 25 because it was an opportunity to save the country and implement reforms … but we have become afraid for Tunisians’ democratic gains because of the excessive reluctance to announce a roadmap”, Taboubi said.
He added that the president should call for a dialogue with political parties and national organisations that includes reviewing the electoral law and agreeing on early and transparent elections.
The UGTT union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is a key political player in Tunisia.
It counts more than one million members across the North African country.
Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government on July 25, installing a new prime minister and announcing he would rule by decree. Critics denounced his move as a coup.
“Tunisia will not be built with individualism,” UGTT Secretary General Noureddine Taboubi told the AFP news agency after addressing supporters, calling on the president to adopt a “participatory approach”.
“Work, freedom and national dignity,” the demonstrators chanted. “With our souls and our blood, we will defend the UGTT.”
The president has defended his takeover as the only way to end governmental paralysis after years of political squabbling and economic stagnation. He has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution.
Saied also promised to end the emergency state quickly but has not given a date for this, and pressure has mounted for him to present a plan to return to parliamentary democracy.
Separately, the Tunisian presidency on Sunday announced the sacking of the country’s consuls in Paris and Milan. It additionally ordered financial audits at the European mission.
“[President Saied] instructed the foreign ministry to proceed with an in-depth financial and administrative check,” at the two consulates, the presidency said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Saied will replace Paris consul general Taher Arbaoui with Ridha Gharsallaoui, who is close to the head of state and had been serving as interior minister.
A former national security adviser to the presidency, Gharsallaoui was named minister on July 29, taking over from former premier Hichem Mechichi, who held the portfolio.
The presidency has said that 10 ambassadors, including to Berlin, Ankara, Beijing and Doha, and six consuls are completing their missions, a move formalising the end of their terms in August.