Tunisian labour union urges new PM appointment


FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's powerful labour union on Tuesday urged the president to rapidly announce a new government some nine days after he seized executive control in a move his opponents called a coup.

President Kais Saied has defended his actions as constitutional and said he will govern alongside a new prime minister during an emergency period, but nine days after his intervention, he has yet to name one.

"We can't wait 30 days for the announcement of a government," said Sami Tahri, a spokesman for the UGTT union, one of Tunisia's most powerful political forces.

"We must speed up the formation of the government to be able to face economic and health challenges," he said.

Saied's sudden intervention on July 25 appeared to have widespread public support but prompted fears for the future of the democratic system that Tunisia adopted after its 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.

He is also still to announce a roadmap to end an emergency period that he initially set at one month but later announced could be two months.

A source close to the presidential palace in Carthage said Saied may announce the new prime minister on Tuesday. Sources have told Reuters that Central Bank Governor Marouane Abassi and two former finance ministers, Hakim Hammouda and Nizar Yaich, are contenders.

Saied's most powerful organised opponent, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, has meanwhile been riven by internal splits over its response to the crisis and its longer-term strategy and leadership.

Tunisians had over the past decade grown ever more frustrated by economic stagnation, corruption and bickering among a political class that often seemed more focused on its own narrow interests than on national problems.

The coronavirus pandemic ripped through Tunisia over the past two months as the state vaccination effort crawled, leading at one point to the worst infection and death rates in Africa. Pandemic counter measures last year hammered the economy.

On Monday Saied replaced the finance, agriculture and telecoms ministers after having said last week that "wrong economic choices" had cost the country. On Sunday he said there were contacts with "friendly countries" for financial assistance.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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