Tunisia's powerful labour union re-elects Noureddine Taboubi as leader

The UGTT also repeated its call for an inclusive process in President Kais Saied's plans to change political and judicial systems

Noureddine Taboubi, re-elected secretary-general of the Tunisian General Labour Union, holds significant sway.  Photo: AFP
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Tunisia's UGTT labour union on Saturday re-elected Noureddine Taboubi as its leader as the country approaches a turning point where the organisation may play an important role.

Mr Taboubi, who has been UGTT leader for five years, has been cautious in the months since President Kais Saied seized executive powers in a move his opponents called a coup.

The union's blessing is regarded as vital for the economic reforms sought by foreign donors in return for a financial rescue package to avert a crisis that threatens to bankrupt Tunisia.

Its stance will also be crucial for Mr Saied's plans to remake Tunisian politics after he suspended the elected parliament in July. The president has also in effect suspended the constitution to say he can rule by decree and has seized control of judicial appointments, moves his critics said undermined rule of law.

With more than a million members and the ability to shut down Tunisia's economy with strikes, the UGTT is widely seen as one of the country's most powerful political players and an organisation that might withstand presidential authority.

Mr Saied has so far largely ignored the UGTT's repeated requests to take part in a broad-based political and economic dialogue over the crisis and his plans to rewrite the constitution. After meeting Mr Taboubi in July, Mr Saied did not see him again until January.

Mr Taboubi's re-election was at the union's congress, a meeting held every five years, and its final statement underlined its demand for an inclusive process for the changes that Mr Saied is pushing.

The UGTT's request recalls the role it played after the 2011 revolution that forced the autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country. It won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 after joining other civil society groups to avert dangerous polarisation on the street.

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Updated: February 19, 2022, 2:52 PM