Mass actions against President Kais Saied’s rule intensify in Tunisia

Tunisia witnessed numerous protests on Sunday, June 19. The country’s largest trade union UGTT observed a national strike last week, while judges have decided to extend their strike for a third consecutive week

June 20, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia protests
(Photo: TAP)

Thousands of people took to the streets in different parts of Tunisia on Sunday, June 19, protesting the July 25 referendum proposed by President Kais Saied. Protesters carrying the national flag raised slogans against President Saied’s “coup” against the constitution and called for a boycott of the proposed national referendum.  

The main protests were organized by the Ennahda party-led National Salvation Front (NSF) in capital Tunis and the Workers’ Party-led National Campaign in Nabeul city. The NSF led by the opposition Ennahda marched across Tunis city till the Habib Bourguiba avenue, TAP reported. 

The protest at Nabeul was addressed by Hamma Hammami, President of the Workers’ Party, and Ghazi Chaouachi, Secretary General of Democratic Current. A number of members of Ettakatol, the Republican Party, and the Alqotb party also participated in the protest. 

During his address, Hammami asked the people to boycott the referendum, saying that its results are immaterial as only Saied‘s supporters will participate and that the entire process of framing a new constitution for the county is fabricated. 

The campaign also claimed that it will organize further protests in the future in coordination with the Civil Front, led by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), and other national organizations. 

UGTT, Tunisia’s largest trade union, held a national strike on June 16, demanding a hike in wages and against the government’s plans for privatization and spending cuts. It had earlier also boycotted the national dialogue held by Saied’s government to prepare a new constitution.  

Meanwhile, Tunisian judges have decided to extend their ongoing strike for yet another week. Judges have been on strike since June 4 following the sacking of 57 of their colleagues by President Saied on June 1 after he accused them of corruption and sheltering “terrorists”. 

Judges’ unions in Tunisia have accused President Saied of interfering in the judiciary in his attempts to control and misuse it for his own political purposes after he dissolved the country’s Supreme Judicial Council in February and took over powers to appoint and dismiss judges. 

Saied has been accused by various political groups and human rights organizations of plotting a coup after he dismissed the Prime Minister in July last year, accusing the country’s politicians of corruption and inefficiency. He has since dissolved the parliament and sidelined various other institutions including the anti-corruption body and the election authority. He has also initiated a national dialogue to frame a new constitution, suspending the 2014 constitution which was the result of the popular uprising against the long term authoritarian rule of Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.