Pressure Mounts on Tunisia’s President to Reveal Crisis Exit
(Bloomberg) -- Tunisian President Kais Saied is coming under increasing pressure to reveal how he plans to exit the turmoil unleashed by his move to take direct control of the country, which spooked foreign investors needed by a struggling economy.
The powerful UGTT union, a major powerbroker in the north African nation, added its voice, having at first supported Saied’s decision last month to fire the prime minister, suspend parliament and assume an enhanced executive role.
Saied needs to tell Tunisians “where we are going” and start talks with all stakeholders over what needs to be done next, the UGTT’s deputy leader, Samy Tahri, said in an interview. The president hasn’t held discussions with the union since it publicly backed his intervention on July 26, he said.
Opposition parties and young Tunisians disenchanted by the outcome of their revolution a decade ago were generally supportive of the president’s actions, which he defended as necessary to combat corruption and end a legislative stalemate. The moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, the main political force in parliament, denounced the move as a coup.
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The detention of some lawmakers, officials and activists has since prompted wider concerns that Saied’s anti-graft strategy may be a ploy to crack down on dissent and free speech.
Yassine Ayari, a prominent figure in the 2011 revolution who became a parliamentarian and has denounced corruption, was arrested last week after opposing Saied’s steps.
Seven other organizations, including the Tunisian Magistrates Association, the Tunisian Press Union, and the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, on Thursday jointly urged the president to reveal his intentions through “a clear and limited schedule.”
The UGTT “remains committed to the principles” of the Tunisian revolution and to democracy, its secretary general, Noureddine Tebboubi, told a rally on Thursday. “But democracy and the popular mandate are no blank checks,” he said.
Officials need to move quickly, Tahri said, especially given the need for a new draft budget.
The constitutional provisions Saied invoked to impose the emergency measures can apply for 30 days, after which any extension will need the approval of parliament and the constitutional court.
With the assembly suspended, the requirement raises the prospect of a deepening standoff. A replacement prime minister would also need a vote of confidence in the legislature.
“The absence of a clear roadmap becomes a source of concern for many in the country,” Amna Guellali, a Tunisian-Libyan who is Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, told an online conference on Thursday.
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