Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union has accused President Kais Saied of targeting it as a distraction from record low election turnout and what's been called a "total failure" of his economic policies.
On Friday 3 February UGTT chief Noureddine Taboubi held a meeting in Gammarth to discuss the arrest of the union's senior official Anis Kaabi earlier in the week.
The country faces high inflation and a shortage of basic goods.
Mr Taboubi said: "The president is trying to divert attention from the record low election turnout in the first and second round of legislative elections and the utter failure of his economic and social decisions."
Tunisia held elections last weekend for a parliament stripped of its powers by Saied. It was boycotted by almost 90 percent of voters after critics accused him of trying to silence his political opponents.
Mr Taboubi added: ""Why is the UGTT a target? Because [the authorities] want to pass the painful reforms they are always discussing.
"In order to pass these painful reforms, they need to distract the public with trivia by saying that the reason for this situation is the UGTT."
The head of the million-member union federation, which jointly won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in Tunisia's democratic transition, said Kaabi had been arrested to send "a clear message, that the UGTT is a target".
Kaabi was detained on Monday after workers at toll barriers on Tunisian highways went on strike for better pay, meaning tolls usually paid to the state-owned highways company went uncollected for two days.
Critics of the government saw the 11.4 percent turnout as a rejection of Saied's post-revolution political system which gave him new powers and made him virtually unimpeachable.
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