– Very low turnout for electing a parliament with a limited role
Tunisians are called to vote this Saturday to renew parliament. After the boycott call by opposition parties, the turnout was one of the lowest on record.
Tunisians on Saturday largely ignored the ballot box when they were called to renew their parliament, the ballot desired by President Qais Saeed to end the process started by the July 2021 coup.
The new 161-member assembly, with far fewer powers, was set to replace Qais Zayed’s shutdown on July 25, 2021, arguing that democratic institutions had been blocked as a result of the first uprisings of the Arab Spring since the fall of dictator Ben. Ali in 2011. Farouk Bouasker, head of the Isie electoral commission, reported a low turnout of “8.8% at 6:00 pm” (17:00 GMT).
This is the lowest turnout since the 2011 revolution (almost 70% in the October 2014 legislative elections) and three times less than the vote on the constitution last summer (30.5%). Neglect.
Analyst Yusef Cherif said on Twitter that the new parliament “should be more democratic and representative than any previous parliament in the country’s history.” Farooq Bouskar recognized a “modest but shameful rate”, which he felt was explained by “a lack of foreign-funded voices (…) buying wholesale”, according to him, in contrast to the past.
The National Salvation Front, a coalition of opponents dominated by the Islamist-inspired Ennahda party – the majority party in the outgoing parliament – called the results an “earthquake” and called on the president to “unite all political forces” to discuss it.
The opposition and most political parties boycotted the vote, accusing Qais Syed (elected at the end of 2019) of “dictatorial drift” for months and condemning the change in electoral law, this time imposing non-party candidates.
Another factor that could explain the dissatisfaction: Candidates (1055), semi-teachers or civil servants, basically unknown, in a country where there are very few women (less than 12%) in equality. Before the referendum, the powerful UGTT trade union center deemed these legislative elections unnecessary. For months, the economic crisis has been the main concern of 12 million Tunisians, with inflation at nearly 10% and persistent shortages of milk, sugar or rice.
“There’s No Other Way”
Salima Bahri, a 21-year-old student interviewed by AFP on the outskirts of Tunis, did not vote, believing that “in the absence of political parties, there is no other option”. In the provinces, the atmosphere is gloomy. In Kazarine (centre), near Sidi Bouzid, where the 2011 revolution broke out, Abed Jabbar Boudiafi, 59, voted “out of electoral duty” in hopes of “political and economic” progress.
Mohammed Jraydi, 40, ignored the ballot box: “I don’t trust the political class, things are going from bad to worse.” Further south in Qafsa, Aicha Smari, 46, voted in 2010 “according to the anniversary of December 17,” when young fruit and vegetable seller Mohamed Bousisi killed himself after police harassment sparked a revolution.
The House of Representatives resulting from the vote (after a second round in early March) will have far fewer privileges under the new constitution voted in July.
“Monopoly of Power”
Parliament cannot impeach the President and it is almost impossible to impeach the government. Ten delegates are needed to propose a law and the president must prioritize passing his own law. According to political scientist Hamza Medeb, “The vote was a formality to complete the system imposed by Qais Saeed and concentrate power in his hands.
The ballot is “a tool President Syed is using to legitimize his monopoly of power,” agrees Verisk Maplecroft analyst Hamish Kinnear, though he believes the ballot has merit in making voting easier. Foreign aid. Donors. Tunisia, with its coffers empty, has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new loan of two billion dollars.
But for the National Salvation Front’s Jawhar Ben Embarek, “the Tunisian people have sent a message to foreign forces — some of whom supported Qais Said’s coup — and to the IMF, that they don’t recognize this government, so they should. Revise their calculations.”