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Tunisia: polling stations won't reveal election turnout

Tunisians arrive to cast their votes at a polling station during the second round of parliamentary elections on January 29, 2023, in Tunis, Tunisia. [ Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency ]
Tunisians arrive to cast their votes at a polling station [ Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency ]

The decision by polling stations in Tunisia not to reveal the turnout for the second part of the legislative election yesterday has been said to "contradict the principles of transparency and democracy", Anadolu has reported.

Separate statements by the Ofiya Coalition and the Mourakiboun Network which monitor elections were issued after the head of the Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), Farouk Bouaskar, announced that the turnout was estimated at 7.73 per cent three hours before polling closed.

"As at 15:00 local time, 606,731 voters in 131 constituencies have participated in the election," Bouaskar told a press conference in Tunis.

The Ofiya Coalition said that its observers were "surprised" by the decision of the heads of the polling stations not to provide them with the numbers of voters and the participation rates. "This contradicts the principles of transparency required in every democratic process and raises doubts about the credibility of the numbers that the ISIE will issue after the polls close, especially since the number of the independent observers covers only 10 per cent of the polling stations."

According to the Mourakiboun Network, "The ISIE deliberately concealed the data related to the number of voters in most electoral constituencies. This is a flagrant violation of the principle of transparency and availability of information, which weakens the trust in the electoral process."

However, ISIE spokesman Muhammad Al-Talili Al-Mansari told local media: "The ISIE ordered the heads of the polling stations not to provide the initial percentages of the elections in order to present the percentages in a unified way. The intention was not to hide the percentages."

In the first round of the election held on 17 December, 23 parliamentary seats were decided out of a total of 154. Participation was a record low of 8.8 per cent of eligible voters. Political parties described this as a "failure" of President Kais Saied's exceptional measures and called for an early presidential election. Saied, though, argued that the rate was better than the large percentages that were announced in previous elections which he described as "rigged".

The Guardian and other media reported today that the latest turnout figure for yesterday's election was "a mere 11 per cent" of eligible voters.

READ: Tunisia military investigates political activist 

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