Tunisia unions urge speedy new government amid 'purge'

Tunisia unions urge speedy new government amid 'purge'
3 min read
Tunisia's UGTT trade union body urged President Kais Saied to form a new government, nearly two weeks after he assumed executive power and fired the prime minister.
Unions have urged Kais Saied to form a new government [Getty]

Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union body has urged President Kais Saied to form a new government, nearly two weeks after he assumed executive power and sacked the prime minister.

Saied also suspended parliament for 30 days on July 25, and has since dismissed four ministers and other top officials.

The president has dismissed accusations by the largest party in parliament that he staged a "coup".

He insists that he acted under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an "imminent threat".

"We call for speeding up the appointment of a head of government" and as "a smaller and harmonious rescue government", said a UGTT statement released late Tuesday.

It said any delay in forming a new government risked worsening the political vacuum in the North African country.

It would also "make it difficult to emerge from the current social and economic crisis", said the UGTT, which backed the president's move last month.

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The International Trade Union Confederation supported the UGTT's statement.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “We stand fully with the UGTT in its efforts to seek an agreed way forward, which must be non-violent, fully respectful of the constitution and the rule of law with judicial independence.

“The ITUC also supports the UGTT’s backing of the right to peaceful protest and its rejection of regressive social and economic policies. The democratic transition in Tunisia is facing a grave challenge, and it is through dialogue – in particular social dialogue with the inclusion of the social partners and other legitimate civil society organisations – that this challenge can be overcome.

“We further call on the international community to support a negotiated political solution and urgently-needed investment in vital services, in job creation and in ending poverty.”

Tunisia is currently suffering one of the world's worst outbreaks of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of death toll.

It has seen more than 20,000 deaths from a population of around 12 million.

On July 25, Saied announced measures that included freezing parliamentary activity for 30 days, lifting parliamentary immunity and sacking Hichem Mechichi as both premier and interior minister.

He later fired the defence, justice, economy and communications technology ministers, as well as top officials.

New economy and communications technology ministers were named on Monday.

On Tuesday, Saied dismissed the governor of the Sfax region and Tunisia's ambassador to the United States, without saying why in either case.

Last month, the UGTT -- which played a key role in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising -- said Saied had acted "in accordance" with the constitution to "prevent imminent danger and to restore the normal functioning" of the state.

While urging the speedy formation of a new government, the union body's latest statement also said Saied's "exceptional" measures respond to the demands of the people.

It called them "a definitive solution to the complexity of the crisis the country is going through in the absence of any other solutions".

The president's move has seen him lose little popular support. But his main adversary, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, accuses him of staging a coup.