Tunisia's union calls for early elections, says democratic gains are threatened


FILE PHOTO: The head of UGTT union, Noureddine Taboubi, speaks during a joint news conference with Minister of Employment Nasreddine Nsibi in Tunis, Tunisia November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's powerful UGTT union called for early elections on Saturday, saying it was concerned for the country's democratic gains because of the president's reluctance to announce a roadmap for political reforms.

UGTT leader Noureddine Taboubi's comments, in a speech to thousands of his supporters, put more pressure on President Kais Saied, more than four months after he seized all political powers.

"We supported July 25 because it was an opportunity to save the country and implement reforms ... but we have become afraid for Tunisians' democratic gains because of the excessive reluctance to announce a roadmap", Taboubi said.

He added that the president should call for a dialogue with political parties and national organizations that includes reviewing the electoral law and agreeing on early and transparent elections.

The UGTT union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is a key political player in Tunisia.

Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government on July 25, installing a new prime minister and announcing he would rule by decree. Critics denounced his move as a coup.

The president has defended his takeover as the only way to end governmental paralysis after years of political squabbling and economic stagnation. He has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution.

Saied also promised to end the emergency state quickly but has not given a date for this, and pressure has mounted for him to present a roadmap to return to parliamentary democracy.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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