Tunisia: trade unions demand more balance of power from Saied

The new constitution has sparked debate in Tunisia and protests from several organisations

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Kais Saied, President of Tunisia

Noureddine Taboubi, secretary general of the Tunisian trade union federation UGTT, on Monday defended a presidential political system "but without full powers" as established in the new constitution, approved on 25 July in a referendum.

Although the union abstained from participating in the election campaign, it did not offer a "blank cheque" to President Kais Saied and its support remains "on condition that a balance of power is guaranteed", Tabboubi said in an interview with the Arab news channel Asharq News.

"Kais Saied is only a human being and every human being can make mistakes," he said, calling for "positive control" to prevent authoritarian drift and calling for "true national reconciliation" involving all national actors except those who have embezzled public money.

The trade unionist referred to the so-called national dialogue, convened in May by Said to draft the constitutional text, which excluded the main opposition parties and which the UGTT opposed on the grounds that "the results were known beforehand".

Both the drafting process - behind closed doors - and the content of the Magna Carta, which will enter into force before 29 August, have been widely criticised by jurists and civil society for introducing an "ultra-presidentialist" system, without guarantees for the separation of powers and in the absence of counter-powers.

Moreover, the directive of the Independent Higher Instance for Elections (ISIE), in charge of supervising the consultation, was modified three months earlier by the president, and the opposition questions its neutrality.

Tabboubi considered that the country is facing a socio-economic battle in the midst of negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to close a loan - the third in the last decade - and rejected the revision of subsidies for basic necessities and fuel without first increasing salaries to compensate for the high cost of living.