Tunisian labor leader rejects parallels with Egypt’s military

August 16, 2013

(Hussein Abassi, head of Tunisia’s UGTT union federation, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Anis Mili )

Hussein Abassi doesn’t like it when his Tunisian trade union federation is compared to the Egyptian army and he is likened to a general who can make or break a government.

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) has neither tanks nor military ambitions, but it does boast an “army” of a million members that dwarfs the political parties now at loggerheads in Tunis.

With the secular opposition trying to force the ruling Islamist party Ennahda to resign, Tunis has been abuzz with talk of an “Egyptian scenario”, with the UGTT – like the army in Egypt – the only group strong enough to force the Islamists out.

Abassi, a former teacher who became UGTT secretary general in late 2011, says his federation wants to use its influence to end a crisis that has paralyzed Tunisian politics for three weeks, but insists that is where all parallels with Egypt end.

“Our situation is different from Egypt’s and I’m not another al-Sisi,” he told Reuters in an interview, referring to the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who ousted the country’s elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last month.

“We don’t know yet what we will do if this stand-off continues, but we have several options and we have ways to make everyone join in a dialogue.”

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