Labor union, political parties condemn moves by Tunisia’s president to consolidate power

The Tunisian General Labor Union and various political parties have condemned president Kais Saied’s moves to consolidate his power through a fresh series of pronouncements issued last week

September 27, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisians protest against President Kais Saied in Tunis on September 18. Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the country’s largest union, has denounced president Kais Saied’s announcement on Wednesday in which he claimed that he can rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution. The union, in a statement on Friday, September 24, warned against ““the dangers of concentrating all powers in the hands of the president,” and called 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.” The president had on Wednesday issued a series of presidential decrees consolidating his power and securing his rule over the country. This followed his actions in July when he suspended parliament, dismissed the prime minister and withdrew immunity from parliamentarians.

Opposition to the president’s actions has been steadily growing. Four smaller Tunisian parties , Attayar, Al Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol, in a statement on Thursday, said, “We consider the president has lost his legitimacy by violating the constitution … and he will be responsible for all the possible repercussions of this dangerous step.” They demanded that the president end his one-man total control over the legislative and executive powers in the country.

Several other political parties have already declared their opposition. The biggest party in Tunisia, Ennahda, called for a “peaceful struggle against absolute autocracy” and described president Saied’s rule as a “full-fledged coup against democracy, the revolution and the will of the people, and the abolition of the most important democratic institutions” in the country. The Au Coeur de la Tunisie party, the 2nd biggest in parliament, also termed the president’s moves as a “premeditated coup” and urged Tunisians to launch a nationwide protest movement against them.

On Wednesday, the president gave himself the power to enact legislation through decrees following cabinet meetings with his government and prime minister, as well as the power to formulate new draft amendments for political reforms with the help of a committee. Constitutional provisions which are in conflict with measures taken by the president under Article 80 will not be in effect.

The UGGT, which had in July supported the president’s actions on Friday, defended its past decision by saying that they were a “a historic opportunity to break with a decade of failure, setbacks, chaos, corruption and terrorism”. However, it also warned against “attempts to use the failures of this decade as a pretext” for the concentration of power and called for “broad dialogue” before any changes are made to the constitution. Noting that “amendments to the constitution and the electoral law are issues that  affect all parts of society,” it rejected the “monopolization of these amendments by the president.”

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