September 11, 2021
TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisia’s powerful labour union, the UGTT, on Saturday called for elections to form a new parliament to debate changing the political system, an implicit rejection of any move by the president to do so directly via a referendum.
President Kais Saied seized governing powers on July 25, citing an emergency clause in the constitution to dismiss the prime minister and suspend parliament, moves his political critics call a coup.
It has thrust Tunisia into its biggest political crisis since the 2011 revolution that ousted an autocratic regime and introduced democracy.
The UGTT’s Achaab newspaper said: “The secretary general (of the union) called for early legislative elections that would lead to a new parliament, after which the constitution would be discussed and the political system would be changed”.
This week one of Saied’s advisers, Walid Hajjem, told Reuters that the president was planning to suspend the 2014 constitution and offer a new version himself via a referendum.
Despite indefinitely extending emergency measures, Saied has rejected accusations of a coup, but nearly seven weeks after his intervention, he has not appointed a new prime minister or formally declared how he plans to rule.
The UGTT, which has more than a million members, is one of the most powerful political forces in Tunisia and was instrumental in bringing together rival political blocs after the 2011 revolution.
Political parties, including some that voiced support for Saied’s July 25 intervention, have rejected the idea of his suspending the constitution and unilaterally offering a new one.
Western democracies, which have been important donors for Tunisia’s battered public finances in recent years, have also pushed Saied to quickly name a prime minister and set out a path forward.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara;Writing by Angus McDowall;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Christina Fincher)
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