Tendance Coatesy

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Tunisia: UGTT (Trade Union Federation) Demands Government Leaves.

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“For the second time one of ours has been murdered in Tunisia.” Jean-Luc Mélenchon

The powerful Tunisian trade union, the UGTT (L’Union générale tunisienne du travail (الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل)  decided during a long meeting on the night of Monday to Tuesday to demand the dismissal of the government led by Islamists after the assassination of an opposition MP.

The  trade union federation, however, did not set an ultimatum. It did not call for the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA, or Assemblée nationale constituantegs). In this they concur with a key demand of a coalition made up of a diverse collection of opposition parties. “The UGTT calls for the government to leave and for the creation of a neutral  government authority headed by a consensus figure,” said the deputy secretary-general of the union, Sami Tahri on  the radio station,  Mosaïque FM.

He also indicated that the UGTT, which has  500,000 members, was in favour of the  vote on the draft constitution. However, the union federation  is demanding an independent assessment of the text. The union has adopted a far more nuanced position than the political opposition who have until now counted on the UGTT to mount sufficient pressure to obtain the dissolution of the Assembly and the Government.

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh of the Islamist party Ennahda on Monday dismissed calls for the resignation of his cabinet, while proposing elections on December the 17th. For such a vote to take place, the Constitution and the Electoral Code  have to  be adopted. At present a number of aspects of that code (holding elections) have not been respected.

Adapted from L’Humanité 30.7.13.

Reuters reports,

 Tunisia’s largest labour union called on Tuesday for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government, increasing pressure on the moderate Ennahda party in the worst political crisis since the country’s autocratic leader was toppled.

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) said a technocrat government should replace the one led by Ennahda, which has defied growing calls to resign by a secular opposition emboldened by the overthrow of the Islamist leader in Egypt.

The protests against the government in a country that led the first of the Arab Spring revolutions grew on Tuesday, when gunmen killed eight soldiers near the Algerian border in one of the bloodiest attacks on Tunisian troops in decades.

“The UGTT calls for dissolving the current government and creating a technocrat government led by an independent figure,” secretary Hussein Abbassi said in statement. “We consider this government incapable of continuing its work.”

Tunisians fear the return of political chaos just two years after autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee during an uprising that set off revolts across the Middle East called the Arab Spring.

The UGTT is a powerful force in Tunisia, with around 600,000 members it can call on to strike.

Opposition leaders have been trying to court the group to support its calls to oust the government and dissolve the transitional Constituent Assembly, tasked with creating a draft constitution.

Ennahda, which was democratically elected, has remained defiant despite increasingly violent and widespread protests. On Monday, one of its junior coalition partners, the secular Ettakatol, threatened to resign if a new unity government was not formed.

The opposition, angered by two assassinations in its ranks and emboldened by the Egyptian army’s ouster of Mohamed Mursi, has taken a hard stance in recent days. It is refusing several concessions and power sharing proposals offered by Ennahda’s governing coalition.

The UGTT said that while it supported the call for a new government it would not back dissolving the Constituent Assembly, which is only weeks away from completing a draft constitution to put to popular referendum.

Opposition critics have argued that dissolving the Assembly and its draft constitution would risk even more long term political instability.

“We propose maintaining the Constituent Assembly but … with a time frame to speed up completion of its work,” Abbassi said. “We will be proposing this to all political parties because there is a need to clear the political bottleneck in this country.”


Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2013 at 11:43 am

General Strike in Tunisia Against Islamist-led Government Next Week.

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Tunisian UGTT: Defends the Workers Against Islamists.

Protests against Islamist rule are not confined to Egypt.

From the  Mashriq to the Maghreb people are opposing the ‘parties of god’.

Next Thursday in Tunisia the union federation, the UGTT, has called a General Strike.

The background as described by Gulf News,

On Tuesday, several hundred Islamists armed with knives and sticks charged a gathering of members of the UGTT union in the capital and broke office windows with stones. Police had to intervene to separate the two groups.

“The UGTT decided to go on strike on December 13, after the attack on the central trade unions and trade unionists on Tuesday,” the union said in a statement on Wednesday.

AFP reports,

“The UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) has decided that a general strike will take place on Thursday, December 13, across Tunisia,” it told AFP.

It called the strike to protest an attack on Tuesday against a UGTT demonstration blamed by the union on supporters of the Islamist ruling party.

A union leader told AFP the UGTT demands the dissolution of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. It accuses the group, close to the ruling Ennahda party and with a reputation for brutal violence — of Tuesday’s attack.

The nationwide strike call is only the third to be made by the powerful UGTT since its foundation in the 1940s.

The first was in 1978 and the second work on January 12, 2011 — two days before the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

On Tuesday, several dozen assailants attacked members of the UGTT, who were gathered outside the union’s headquarters in Tunis to mark the 60th anniversary of the assassination of its founder, Farhat Hached.

Police intervened to separate the two sides, but 10 demonstrators were wounded in the attack, according to the trade union.

Tunisia Live  reports that opposition members of the National Constituent Assembly (المجلس الوطني التأسيسي التونسي, Assemblée constituante tunisienne) have called for a 3 day boycott of its plenary  proceedings in solidarity with the UGTT.

It will be interesting to see how the junior member of the Ennahda government, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Arabic: التكتل الديمقراطي من أجل العمل والحريات‎, at-Takattul ad-Dīmuqrāṭī min ajl il-‘Amal wal-Ḥurriyyāt ;  Ettakatol – Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés) which has observer status to the Second International, will react to this latest act by Islamist thugs.

President Moncef Marzouki has recently called for a smaller Cabinet of technocrats to deal with the crisis.

Progressive Islamists?

Ennahada has enjoyed very favourable coverage in the UK .

  wrote in the Guardian (26.10.11),

“The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence. Tunisia has faced nothing like the backlash the uprisings in other Arab countries have received, but that spirit is the driving force of the movement for change across a region long manipulated and dominated by foreign powers.”

@georgegalloway George Galloway tweeted before this election,

“Tunisians: Choose An-Nadha in elections. Sheikh Rachid is a wise kind brave man. A lion should lead the lions who began the Arab Revolution!”

Now we know the wisdom and bravery of this  ‘lion’.

Video of the attack on the UGTT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZV0PAXzG-A

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Tunisia, Islamist Government ‘Destablised’.

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Al Jazeera reports,

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has rejected calls for his resignation after three days of violent protests against economic hardship left more than 300 people injured.

Jebali, the leader of the Islamist Ennahdha party, accused secular liberals and religious Salafis of harming the country’s economy and international image through their conflict with one another.

Ennahdha often presents itself as a “middle-way compromise” party, but Jebali on Thursday accused opposition parties of sowing disorder and called for the violence in the northern city of Siliana to end.

“The violence that has occurred requires us to take a stand – the unions, the parties and organisations – against, let us say, the mutual violence,” Jebali said.But demonstrators said they were not behind the violence, as police officers were caught on camera, beating protesters among the crowd of 15,000 people.

Staff at a nearby hospital said a dozen people hit with pellets from shotguns may lose their sight.

More reports:

En Tunisie, les émeutes de Siliana déstabilisent le gouvernement d’Ennahda

The riots in Siliana are destabilising the Ennahad (Islamist) government says LE MONDE

Le président tunisien, Moncef Marzouki, est intervenu à la télévision, vendredi soir 30 novembre, après quatre jours de violentes émeutes à Siliana – une ville située dans une région agricole à 120 kilomètres au sud-ouest de Tunis, où l’armée s’est déployée en fin de journée – pour réclamer la formation d’un gouvernement restreint de “compétences”.

After four days of violent rioting in Siliana The Tunisian President Moncef Marzouk appeared on television Friday evening. This town, in an agricultural region 120 kilomomtres South-West from Tunis has seen the army intervene in the evening. He called for a new government with the task of dealing with the unrest.

“Nous n’avons pas une seule Siliana, a poursuivi le chef de l’Etat. J’ai peur que cela se reproduise dans plusieurs régions, et que cela menace l’avenir de la révolution.”

He continued, “We do not have just one Siliana. I am concerned this situation spreads to other regions, threatening the future of the revolution’.

In Tunis the independent trade union federation, the UGTT, organised on Friday  a demonstration (about 400 -500 people) in support of the protesters in Siliana (Here).

Increasingly the UGGT is  in conflict with the Islamist-led government.

Time reports,

The Tunisian army withdrew from Siliana on Saturday only hours after entering the flashpoint town following days of intense clashes with protesters, a police official said.

“The army had offered to come and provide security for a few days, but the interior ministry refused,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

His remarks were echoed by two other sources in the police force.

Protesters took to the streets of Siliana this week demanding Governor Ahmed Ezzine Majjoubi’s resignation, financial aid, the end of police attacks, and that security reinforcements be ordered out.

The four days of violence left more than 300 people wounded, as political instability mounts two years after Tunisia’s Arab Spring uprising.

The military entered Siliana on Friday, to the cheers of crowds, as the main trade union announced that the army would take over security from police who have been accused of abuse and violence.

New demonstrations were planned for later Saturday in the impoverished town, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of Tunis.

Bikaymasr reports,

TUNIS: Amnesty International is deeply concerned by reports that as many as 300 protesters and  bystanders have been injured by the Tunisian police’s use of excessive force in Siliana, a city south west of Tunis, during demonstrations on 27, 28 and 29 November. Protesters have been calling for the departure of the governor of Siliana, economic development of the town and the release of 13 detainees arrested during protests in April 2011 and who remain in pre-trial detention. Further protests were reported on 29 November as a general strike continued.

Shotguns and other firearms appear to have been used, as well as teargas, by law enforcement against protesters on 27, 28 and 29 November.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Tunisia’s New Opposition in Le Monde Diplomatique.

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Le Monde Diplomatique carries an important dossier on Political Islam after the ‘Arab Spring’ this month.

It is available in English.

This is one of the main articles

Tunisia’s new opposition by Hèla Yo

Tunisia’s biggest union, the UGTT, with its strong nationalist roots, is acting more and more like an opposition party. In its standoff with the ruling Annahda Party, political rivalry is to the fore and pressing economic issues have been sidelined.

In August, ten months after the election that brought the Annahda Party to power (1), farmers, construction workers and the unemployed were demonstrating again in Sidi Bouzid, where Tunisia’s “dignity revolution” started. The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) supported their action. On 14 August it called a general strike, demanding regional development measures and the release of young unemployed people arrested during demonstrations violently put down by the police. The local Annahda office advised the UGTT’s members and leadership to refrain from any involvement in politics and preserve their independence.

In the text there is this significant analysis,

The opposition consists mainly of centrist and neoliberal organisations including the Parti Démocratique Progressiste (PDP) and Afek Tounes, which have merged to form the Parti Républicain, and a coalition of former members of the RCD and of other “democratic” organisations, who have rallied around former prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi to form the Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) movement, which last year accused the UGTT of “sowing anarchy”. There are also far-left parties such as Al-Watad (Movement of Democratic Patriots) and the Tunisian Workers’ Party (formerly the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party).

Read the rest on-line Here.

I have one point however.

The French version of the article uses the term “libérale’ not neoliberal, which covers in this  case both political liberalism and – to a degree – economic liberalism.

We should remember that in economic terms, which is the normal meaning of neoliberal in English, the ruling party Ennahda is definitely neoliberal.

Not only does it have close ties to the pious Islamist bourgeoisie, and,  the equally observant financiers of Qatar, but its economic policies, resisted by the UGTT, indicate this clearly.

Though culturally few would regard the Party as basically liberal-minded, for all its recent (US inspired, it is alleged) crack down on the Salafists.

We note this attack on Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia)(L’Appel de la Tunisie (نداء تونس)

Le 18 octobre  2012  le coordinateur du parti à Tataouine, également dirigeant régional de l’Union tunisienne de l’agriculture et de la pêche, meurt en marge d’affrontements entre ses partisans et des manifestants proches d’Ennahda. Selon un représentant du parti, il est mort après avoir été tabassé alors que le porte-parole du ministère de l’Intérieur  assure qu’il a été terrassé par une crise cardiaque. Béji Caïd Essebsi dénonce le lendemain le « premier assassinat politique depuis la révolution »


Eight arrested over Tunisia opposition figure death

(AFP) – 3 days ago 

TUNIS — Eight people have been arrested over the death of an opposition party official last month during a protest by supporters of Tunisia’s ruling Islamists that turned violent, his family said on Monday.

“They arrested eight people yesterday (Sunday),” said Fethi Naguedh, the brother-in-law of Lotfi Naguedh, who represented the Call of Tunisia party in the southern town of Tataouine, where the violence took place.

The official TAP news agency confirmed the eight arrests, citing police.

The interior minister said Naguedh died of a heart attack when his supporters clashed with those of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda outside his office on October 18.

Officials from the opposition party, however, say he died after being beaten by protesters from the League for the Protection of the Revolution, a grouping close to Ennahda, who attacked his office.

Among those detained on Sunday was Said Chebli, who heads the Tataouine branch of the League, said Naguedh, adding that according to the autopsy, his brother-in-law had been hit 59 times with blunt objects and weapons.

Call of Tunisia’s leader Beji Caid Essebsi branded Lotfi Naguedh’s death a “political assassination,” and President Moncef Marzouki condemned what he referred to as a “lynching.”

Tunisia has been plagued by violent social unrest since the mass uprising that toppled the former regime in January last year, with the country’s state of emergency, which has been in force then, recently extended to January.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Islamism, North Africa, Tunisia, Unions

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