West News Wire: Following Kais Saied’s recent assault on opponents, the powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) has organized a rally in the nation’s capital, mobilizing thousands of supporters against the president.
Before a march through the city center on Saturday, protesters gathered and held signs reading “No to one-man rule” and “Stop attacks on the union,” while yelling “Saied is a coward, the union is not afraid” and “Freedom! The police state must end.
They were protesting following weeks of arrests made against prominent Saied critics as part of the first significant crackdown since he took the majority of the authority in 2021, shutting down the parliament and establishing rule by decree.
Ahead of the protest, the secretary-general of the UGTT, Noureddine Taboubi, delivered a speech to the crowds. “The workers are united, and we have chosen the path of struggle; struggle does not come cheap,” he said.
“We will not accept the suppression of freedoms in the Tunisia, and there will be no tyranny in Tunisia. We salute the imprisoned politicians in Mornaguia prison.
“We reject the intimidation and nightly raids on politicians’ homes and the intimidation of their families. The era of injustice, persecution and tyranny is over,” he added.
“Saied is threatening everyone here. Parties, civil society, unions. All freedoms Tunisians are here to say we cannot accept populism and nascent dictatorship,” said Najeh Zidi, a teacher at the protest.
The crackdown is the biggest since Saied’s seizure of powers and his opponents say it is ever more clear that he has dismantled the democracy won in the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring and will end the freedoms it brought.
Saied has denied his actions were a coup, saying they were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos.
The UGTT was initially slow to criticise Saied’s move while political parties were denouncing it as a coup, but as the president consolidated his grip while ignoring the union and other players, it began to openly challenge him.
A senior union official was detained last month for organising a strike by highway tollbooth operators, prompting the UGTT’s newspaper to say Saied had declared war on the organisation and its million members.