Thousands of people marched through Tunisia’s capital, Tunis on Saturday protesting against an expanding crackdown on opposition voices and a proposed lifting of subsidies for food and other goods.
The action by the Tunisian crowd consisting mainly of Tunisia’s central trade union was geared towards challenging President Kais Saied, whose leadership is prompting growing international concern.
According to local media in Tunisia, since taking office in October 2019, Saied has dismantled the country’s democratic gains and unleashed repression against migrants from elsewhere in Africa.
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Marchers in Tunis chanted slogans against price increases and food shortages, the biggest concern for most Tunisians.
Talks with the International Monetary Fund on an agreement to help finance the government have stalled amid political tensions.
The IMF has called for the lifting of some subsidies and other reforms.
President Saied called the Tunisian General Labour Union’s (UGTT) decision to invite foreign trade union leaders to the protest “unacceptable”.
“Tunisia is not a farm, meadow or a land without a master. Whoever wants to demonstrate is free to do so, but he does not have to invite foreigners to participate,” he said on the eve of Saturday’s march.
UGTT secretary-general Noureddine Taboubi said he would have liked to hear a reassuring and unifying speech from the president, but instead heard only coded insults.