By Tarek Amara
TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union said on Wednesday that any national dialogue on proposed changes to the constitution must be without preconditions and not based on the results of public online consultations announced by President Kais Saied.
The position of UGTT, which has more than a million members and can shut down Tunisia’s economy with strikes, broadens opposition to the president’s plans to move forward with fundamental reforms without real dialogue.
Saied dissolved parliament last month, imposing one-man rule. In a move his opponents say is a coup, he seized control of the executive powers in the middle of last year and has since ruled by decree.
“The Union is pressing for the dialogue to be without preconditions,” Noureddine Taboubi, head of the union, told reporters, adding an online consultation would be inadequate.
Ahead of planned constitutional amendments in July, Saied said last week the reforms would be based on the results of an online consultation, in which only 500,000 of a total population of 12 million inhabitants participated.
Saied has denied seeking to impose an individual rule and said he wanted the people to have sovereignty.
In the latest of a series of unilateral decisions, Saied also said people would vote for individuals in the next parliamentary elections expected in December rather than the lists they have chosen from in previous elections.
The country’s two main parties Ennahda and Free Constitutional, which are bitterly opposed, have both said they will boycott any referendum to restructure the political system unilaterally.
The opposition accuses Saied of trying to impose his personal project and that he only wants dialogue that will support his proposals.
A European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee said following a visit to Tunisia that a genuinely inclusive national dialogue is imperative.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Ahmad Elhamy; Editing by Jan Harvey and Barbara Lewis)