Controversy drags on following the new constitution unilaterally drafted by the Tunisian president

UGTT urges Saied to hold talks after high abstention rate in Tunisian elections

photo_camera AFP/KARIM JAAFAR - Tunisian President Kais Saied

Tunisia's powerful trade union confederation, the UGTT, on Tuesday raised the tone against President Kais Saied after the "abysmal" turnout in the legislative elections, with 11.2%, and urged him to engage in dialogue while calling on civil society to come out of its silence to do its duty. 

The reason for this abstention - the highest since the beginning of the transition in 2011 - is due to the "desperation" of citizens who, the union's secretary general, Noureddine Taboubi, said in a public speech, "will not let the country fall prey to populism". 

Although the UGTT initially supported the initiative of the president, who in June 2021 arrogated to himself full powers after dismissing the government and suspending parliament in order to "preserve social peace", he has hardened his discourse in recent months. 


The main trigger was the new Constitution, drafted unilaterally by Saied, approved in a referendum despite a 70% abstention rate, and which establishes an "ultra-presidential" regime, according to experts. 

"It is time for civil society and national organisations to play their national role (...) Today silence is a crime. We will not let them attack the country and we will not be afraid of prisons", warned the trade union leader, who rejected both the semi-parliamentary system and Said's "excessive populism". 

Taboubi also criticised the political class, saying that "citizens hate all parties, it seems that the opposition has not learned its lesson". 


The electoral body yesterday revised upwards the turnout figure for the first round of the legislative elections held last Saturday, which rose from 8.8% to 11.22%, representing 1.2 million out of a total of nine million voters. 

The election, in which 1,055 candidates took part - 122 of them women - was governed by a new electoral law that replaces political party lists with single-member candidates. 

The opposition, which boycotted the process, called for the second round to be annulled and demanded the resignation of the president, whom it described as "illegitimate", as well as the holding of early presidential elections. 

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