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Tunisia: Protests Against Constitutional ‘Reform’ Follow Mass Public Sector Strike.

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Flights were cancelled, public transport ground to a halt and government offices were closed in a nationwide strike by Tunisia’s main trade union confederation Thursday, that piled pressure on a president already facing a string of crises.

France 24. 16. 6.2022,

The powerful UGTT confederation had called on up to three million public sector workers to strike, halting work at 159 state agencies and public companies to demand concessions on salaries and threatened reforms.

The action appeared to be widely observed in the capital Tunis, where post offices and public utilities were closed.

Police were present in large numbers outside UGTT headquarters as strikers began to gather for a rally.

The government has presented a reform plan to the global lender which includes a freeze on the public sector wage bill, progressive cuts to some subsidies and a restructuring of publicly owned companies.

But the UGTT, which has warned against “painful reforms” aimed at pleasing the IMF, has demanded guarantees that state sector firms, including some monopolies, will remain publicly owned.

The UGTT said Wednesday that its strike action aimed to defend workers’ economic and social rights after the “dithering of the government in the face of their legitimate demands”.

Employment Minister Nasreddine Nsibi said the government reserved the right to requisition some workers to allow essential services to operate.

While the UGTT insists the strike is not political, it comes as President Kais Saied faces intense criticism for excluding opposition forces from his “national dialogue” — part of a push to overhaul the Tunisian state and consolidate an ongoing power grab.

The president sacked the government and suspended an elected parliament in July last year, before dissolving the legislature in March and sacking scores of judges by decree earlier this month.

The UGTT was invited to take part in the national dialogue, but refused on the grounds that key political forces were not. It also argued that the process aimed to push through “conclusions decided unilaterally in advance”.

The UGTT, a co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in a previous national dialogue in the wake of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, had originally backed Saied when he sacked the government and suspended parliament.

But it has become increasingly critical as Saied has extended his power grab, which some of his rivals describe as a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab uprisings of 2011.

Kaboub said democratisation had failed to deliver key economic reforms such as boosting food and energy sovereignty and investing in high value-added industries.

“It’s time for the IMF, the Tunisian government and the UGTT to formulate an alternative vision for economic development in Tunisia,” he said.

Tunisians protest against constitution referendum as opposition grows

TUNIS, June 18 (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Saturday in opposition to a referendum on a new constitution called by President Kais Saied that would cement his hold on power.

The protest led by Abir Moussi, leader of the Free Constitutional Party, reflected growing opposition to Saied since he seized executive power last year, dissolving parliament and ruling by decree in a move opponents called a coup.

Another protest called by other opposition parties, including the Ennahda Islamist party, is expected on Sunday to protest against the referendum and Saied’s latest decrees, such as the dismissal of dozens of judges and military trials for some politicians.

The president’s supporters say he is standing up to elite forces whose bungling and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and economic stagnation.

Tunisie : 5 partis politiques lancent une campagne pour “renverser” le référendum constitutionnel

– Les partis concernés sont les suivants: le Parti Républicain, le Courant démocrate, le Forum démocratique pour le Travail et les Libertés, le Parti des Travailleurs et le Pôle (gauche)

 Joint statement by the Republican Party, the Democratic Current, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Freedoms, the Workers’ Party and the Pole (left), which was read by the Secretary General of the Party of the workers, Hamma Hammami, during a press conference held in the capital, Tunis.

Hammami said the aforementioned parties will launch a “national campaign to overturn the referendum on the Constitution by refusing to participate and calling for a boycott.

“A number of activities on the ground and in the media will be carried out with the aim of protecting the country from the dangers of disintegration and fighting against all forms of violation of national sovereignty and infringement of public and individual freedoms. We will be open to all democratic and progressive political forces and personalities who meet the campaign objectives to defeat the referendum,” he explained.

The parties considered that “the referendum project is dangerous, by which the President intends to give false legitimacy to ready-made decisions”.

Libération June the 14th:

Crise constitutionnelle

En Tunisie, Kaïs Saïed saborde la IIe République.

After having granted himself full powers, the President intends to vote for a new Constitution. Decree by decree he is attacking all the institutions born of the, now decried, 2011 revolution.

The days of the Second Tunisian Republic, born of the 2011 revolution, are numbered. President Kaïs Saïed had granted himself full powers after his July 25 coup,and  he has since pursued a systematic attempt to dismantle institutions. After Parliament has been suspended, the High Council of the Judiciary, dissolved, the Authority for the fight against corruption, paralysed, the Independent Superior Authority for the elections (Isie) was reshaped by hand . Its members are no longer elected by the deputies, but appointed by the President of the Republic. One of them, the administrative judge Habib Rebii, appointed last month by a presidential decree, resigned from the electoral authority on Monday.

Today:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Tunisia, “Revolutionary Conservative” Kaïs Saïed heads First Round: two Populists to battle it out.

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Kais Saïd ou le choix de la génération

Robocop Heads Tunisian Presidential First Round.

Presidential election results were seen as a shock in the Tunisian media.

Here

Tunisia election: Outsider in lead stuns after most votes counted.

Al Jazeera.

With two-third votes in presidential race counted, conservative constitutional law professor Kais Saied takes the lead.

Law professor and political outsider Kais Saied is leading Tunisia‘s presidential polls with two-thirds of the votes counted, the electoral commission said, after the country’s second free vote for head of state since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Saied was on 18.9 percent on Monday night, ahead of imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 15.5 percent, according to the electoral commission, ISIE.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.

ISIE figures showed him in fifth place with 7.4 percent of the vote, trailing both Ennahdha party candidate Abdelfattah Mourou (moderate’ islamists, once a favourite of Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man, Seumas Milne)  and former defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.

France 24 noted,

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in a first round in 2014.

Reports indicate that  Kaïs Saïed’s electoral base is the educated youth, the “les 20-30 ans éduqués.”

Nicknamed, “robocop”, this comes from his unflagging diction, his use of a rigorous literary Arabic (when many candidates speak in Tunisian forms), his analysis essentially based on the country’s constitutional problems, his conservative positions on social issues. Others have made the connection with “Robespierre”, a ”  Robespierre without guillotine, but if the situation was that of two centuries ago, he would have used it,” an observer noted. He has been a favourite in the polls for many months.

Le Point.

The  analysis by Syrine Ben Youssef on Huffington Post Maghreb has a different angle on the age cohort.

Kais Saïd ou le choix de la génération Z

37 % des électeurs de Kais Saïd auraient entre 18 et 25 ans

37% of the voters for Kais Saïd  are said to be between 18 and 25 years old.

Syrine Ben Youssef summarises some reasons for this result.

They call them ‘Generation Z’ who have grown up since the Tunisian Spring, in contrast to ‘Generation Y who made the revolution.

This is the digital generation, “digital natives” ultra-connected, born with internet, mobile phones, and  social networks.

Saïd is seen as “honest, independent, intellectual” and, above all, he conveyed this image in short broadcasts which can be quickly absorbed and gave an image of furthering a change from the old political set up, the style of lengthy speeches and arguments. He, the Huffington Post journalist, argues,, managed to give an accessible image and a message of supporting, “ideas of ​​direct popular participation” and backing for “universal suffrage”, that is, not the rule of a squabbling political class.

Generation Z, for its part, shows us, through this election in 2019, that it needs change and that it thinks differently. Kais Saïd advocates  a direct democracy where the intermediaries between the power and the people would be reduced. A democracy in the image of a horizontal company or even a liberated firm having little or no level of separation between employees and the executive. Kais Saïd targets, perhaps very intentionally or possibly accidentally, Generation Z.

In case anybody should think this audience makes Saïed a liberal, think again.

He is in favour of the death penalty, he thinks homosexuality is promoted by ‘foreign’ forces’ (l’homosexualité, ou plutôt son expression publique, est encouragée par des parties étrangères qui les financent »)  which should be kept Private, and he thinks that inheritance laws should give priority to males (as in most interpretations of Islamic ‘law’). More here.

It looks like a standoff between two “populists”, the one, constitutional and conservative, who attacks “elites”, the other Nabil Karoui, referred to as a Tunisian Berlusconi with dodgy money – currently in Gaol awaiting trial for this – who wants to “Libérer l’économie”, free the economy.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2019 at 12:27 pm

7th Anniversary of Tunisian Uprising Marked by Protests.

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https://images.scribblelive.com/2018/1/14/597583a4-b2a8-4a72-98d4-657a6d403471_800.jpg

Front Populaire on the March in Tunisia Today.

Tunisia protests mark seven years since Arab Spring uprising

France 24.

Tunisia, shaken by days of nationwide unrest over price hikes, is marking seven years on Sunday since the North African nation drove out its long-time autocratic ruler.

Tunisians are calling for peaceful protests on the anniversary to tell the country’s new leaders that they have failed to fix problems that stirred the revolution.

President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile on Jan. 14, 2011, transforming the country into a budding democracy that inspired the Arab Spring – then defied it by being the only country to keep its transition peaceful.

Now, protesters are driving home the message that they believe that six governments in power since then have crushed hopes of social and economic justice, and left them feeling betrayed.

Citizen’s Against the Right-Wing Islamist Party.

On this 7th Anniversary the trade union, L’UGTT, has called for a march in the centre of Tunis. They will be joined by the left wing Tunisian alliance, the Front Populaire (FP) has described government measures taken in response to these protests, which include a minimum wage for the poorest, and universal heath care,  as a “masquerade”. They do not satisfy the needs of the people. The FP has called for continuing demonstrations against the Finance law – austerity.

Al Jazeera has just published an interview with people from Fech Nestannew.

Al Jazeera spoke to Tunis-based protest organiser Warda Atig, 25, about how the Fech Nestannew movement came about, its demands, and whether the Tunisian government may revise its economic policies.

Al Jazeera: What is the idea behind Fech Nestannew?

Warda Atig: Fech Nestannew is a movement created by Tunisian youth after the government’s finance act of 2018 came into effect. Following this act, the prices went up and the state stopped recruiting for public sector jobs.

That’s why we decided to create this movement, in order to push the government to cancel this financial measure.

Al Jazeera: How did your protests begin and when?

Atig: When we first heard about this law, in November and December of last year, several youth factions from the different progressive political parties organised discussions [about] what the law was and what the impact of the law would be on society.

We were waiting for the government to make the law official and we chose the date of our first action to be January 3. The date is very symbolic because, on January 3, 1984, there was the Intifada al-Khubez (bread uprising) in Tunisia [over an increase in the price of bread].

On January 3, we made a declaration in front of the municipal theatre [on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis] and we distributed pamphlets with our demands. We were about 50 activists.

Al Jazeera: What are those demands?

Atig: We want the government to end the increase in prices, cancel the moratorium on recruiting in the public sector, provide security and healthcare, end privatisation and put forward a national strategy to counter corruption.

These demands [are in response to] decisions taken by the government … [and] they are within the context of the finance act of 2018. So we are asking [the government] to cancel this act.

If they don’t cancel it, they will privatise national companies, they will not fight corruption, they will continue to increase prices. We are explaining to people that we have to say no to this act.

Al Jazeera: Protests have taken place across Tunisia. How did these different regions get involved in your movement and do you have a coordinated strategy?

Atig: First, we created a group on Facebook. Then, there were many reactions from people in other regions. People started to ask themselves, “What are we waiting for?”

People from student unions and other young people who were very active regionally also got involved.

It started here (Tunis) with different groups, including student unions and groups of unemployed graduates. Everyone here helped spread this campaign … and what happened in Tunis happened in all the other regions.

This isn’t only [a movement] for Tunis; it’s for all of Tunisia.

More via above link.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm