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Tunisia President blames hatred of Parliament for low turnout in elections

January 31, 2023 at 1:54 pm

Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis. [FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images]

Tunisia’s President, on Monday, blamed ultra-low turnout for parliamentary elections on hatred among voters of the Parliament, not to a decline in his own popularity, Reuters reports.

The electoral commission announced that only 11.4 per cent of the electorate had voted on Sunday in parliamentary runoffs. Critics of President Kais Saied said the empty polling stations were evidence of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers.

Opposition parties called on Saied to resign after what they called a “huge failure”, saying early parliamentary and presidential elections were the only route out of the crisis.

Saied rejected accusations, calling his critics “traitors”.

“90 per cent did not vote. … This confirms that Tunisians no longer trust this institution. … During the past decade, Parliament has been an institution of absurdity and a state within the state,” Saied said.

“Our popularity is greater than theirs”, he added during a meeting with Prime Minister, Najla Bouden.

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

Saied closed Parliament with tanks in 2021, dismissed the government and started ruling by decree, a move the opposition called a coup.

He accused lawmakers of accepting huge sums of money in return for passing laws.

The newly configured parliament has had its role shrunk as part of a political system Saied introduced last year.

Many Tunisians appeared initially to welcome Saied’s seizure of powers two years ago, after years of weak governing coalitions seemed unable to revive a moribund economy, improve public services or reduce stark inequalities.

But Saied has voiced no clear economic agenda, except to rail against corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he has blamed for rising prices.

Unlike the previous Parliament, the new one elected on Sunday will have limited powers. The formation and dismissal of governments will be in the hands of the President.

Over the past decade, Parliament has been powerful and has appointed and dismissed governments. Despite the political tensions that took place in the previous Parliament since the revolution, it had the ability even to dismiss the President and hold all officials accountable.

READ: Tunisia: ex-president calls for dismissal of Saied and restoration of democracy