Tunisian President Kais Saied said he is ready to engage in dialogue, with conditions, to get the country out of the ongoing crisis, after he rejected initiatives calling for a national dialogue.
The Tunisian presidency said in a statement on Tuesday that “President Kais Saied met today at the Carthage Presidential Palace with Secretary-General of the People’s Movement, Zuhair Maghzawi” to discuss the political, economic and social impasse and ways to overcome it.
The statement added that Saied expressed his readiness to consider dialogue to solve Tunisia’s calamity, stressing that these talks must be different from what Tunisia has known in recent years, as serious solutions to the people’s issues must be sought.
The statement indicated that “the Tunisian people have addressed their problems by themselves, and the dialogue can be the framework to define and arrange solutions stemming from the popular will.”
For the first time, the president agreed to hold a national dialogue, after he confirmed on 6 April that he would not negotiate with those he referred to as “thieves”.
Saied has previously questioned the purpose of conducting a “national” dialogue with parties “who do not have any visions for the homeland.”
This conditional approval to hold a national dialogue comes four days after Noureddine Taboubi, secretary-general of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the largest trade union in the country, called on the president to engage “before it is too late”.
Taboubi warned that postponing the dialogue any further would only worsen make the situation worse, “as all indicators point to the country being on the verge of the abyss”.
Tunisia is currently witnessing a suffocating economic and social crisis, which has been exacerbated by the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a sharp economic decline during the current year. Protests have erupted in several regions urging the authorities to meet the demands of specific social groups.
This comes as a dispute between Saied and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi that erupted on 16 January after the latter announced a partial government reshuffle has intensified. Saied has not yet invited the new ministers to swear the oath of office, as he considers the reshuffle to be marred by violations.