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Tunisia: calls grow for president to step down after latest low election turnout

January 30, 2023 at 11:55 am

Tunisian President Kais Saied in Djerba Island, Tunisia [Mohamed Mdalla/Anadolu Agency]

Calls are growing for Tunisian President Kais Saied to step down in the wake of another very low turnout in yesterday’s legislative election. The figure has been put at 11 per cent, according to some media reports. Just 8.8 per cent of eligible voters turned out in the first leg of the election in December.

The participation rate in elections are the main measure of their success. Opposition to participation stems from the ongoing political and economic crisis afflicting Tunisia.

The Independent High Elections Authority (ISIE) distanced itself from the low turnout. The authority did everything in its power, it insisted, to inform people of the election date and to present the candidates and their programmes.

Saied’s political opponents attribute the almost empty polling stations to public dissatisfaction with his control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government since mid-2021.

“Given the complete lack of interest of Tunisians in political life, this parliament will not have much legitimacy,” said Youssef Cherif, a researcher at the Columbia Global Centre. “Thanks to the 2022 constitution, the strong president will be able to dominate it as he pleases.”

The new parliament will have limited powers, as it cannot, for example, dismiss the president or hold him accountable. Saied will have priority in proposing bills. Moreover, the new constitution does not require the government appointed by the president to get a vote of confidence from MPs.

According to Mongi Dhaoudi, the head of the Tunisian United Network which follows the elections from Washington with concern for the future of the country, it was a “farce” to see the “empty” polling stations. “The weak participation is evidence that the people are not interested in this political process, and do not see hope in changing the constitution and new elections for reforming the country’s critical situation after a year and a half in which the president has had all the power without supervision or accountability. He counted on this political process, which turned out to be a failure.”

It is expected that the preliminary results of the second round will be announced no later than 1 February. The final results will be announced after the appeal process is closed, no later than 4 March. With most political parties boycotting the legislative election, most seats are expected to go to independent candidates.

Tunisia: polling stations won’t reveal election turnout