TUNIS: Tunisia’s main trade union confederation called yesterday for mass protests to pressure the Islamist-led government to accept a compromise road map for ending two months of political deadlock.
The Islamists yesterday rejected a plan for them to step down pending elections, deepening a confrontation with secular opponents.
“We cannot accept the threat of pressure from the streets,” said Ennahda vice president Adb el Hamid Jelassi. “There should be more guarantees.”
“We have said that this government would not step down concretely before the completion of the constitution,” Rafik Abd Essalem, a senior Ennahda official, told reporters.
The party also said it wanted more guarantees on a date for elections before relinquishing power to an interim government.
The UGTT announced that it would mobilise a “large, peaceful protest” in Tunis and gatherings in all regions of the country, without saying when.
“We have decided to activate all forms of peaceful civilian protest in all sectors,” added the powerful union confederation, which boasts some 500,000 members and is capable of bringing the country to a standstill.
The UGTT has been the lead mediator between the government and the mainly secular opposition, despite its tense relations with the Islamist Ennahda party that leads the ruling coalition.
“The ruling troika (Ennahda and its two coalition partners) puts its own interests first, and seeks to remain in power at the expense of the interests of the nation and the people,” the UGTT said.
It promised to coordinate its actions with the other three mediators — employers’ organisation Utica, the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the bar association.
The mediators accuse Ennahda of “ambiguities” in its response to their blueprint for ending the crisis triggered by the July assassination of opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi by suspected hardline Islamists.
The plan sets a three-week deadline for the formation of a cabinet of independents to replace the current Ennahda-led government after the launch of a dialogue between the two sides.