Abstention at the end of the ballot

AA/Tunis/Majdi Ismail

On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed upsets the political spectrum. Evoking an “imminent danger”, the Head of State imposes exceptional measures to “save the State from collapse”, including, among other things, the dismissal of the government, the appointment of a new Executive, the dissolution of Parliament, and the promulgation of laws by presidential decrees.

The process initiated unilaterally by Saïed provoked a political crisis, aroused the aversion of his opponents, as well as the reservations of certain Western capitals.

On December 13, 2021, the Head of State unveiled a roadmap supposed to get Tunisia out of the political crisis, in which he announced a referendum on the draft new Constitution on July 25, 2022 and anticipated legislative elections on December 17. 2022, after revision of the electoral law.

The participation of Tunisians in these two elections will serve as a barometer, especially since the political crisis is compounded by a persistent economic crisis marked by social tensions. General strike in the civil service, marches hostile to President Saïed, economic growth at half mast (less than 3% according to the latest World Bank report), a debt of more than 100% of GDP, according to the same source and a high rate unemployment. In the third quarter of 2022, 37.8% of working people aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, according to the National Institute of Statistics.

If the new Constitution was adopted by 94.6% of the 2.756 million voters who went to the polls, (i.e. a participation rate of 30.5%), the first round of the legislative elections organized on December 17, 2022 and boycotted by the main forces of the opposition, showed that the priorities of the Tunisians lay elsewhere.

The Independent High Authority for the Elections (Isie), the electoral authority in Tunisia, had officially announced a turnout of 11.22% in the first round of the ballot (the electoral authority had announced a preliminary figure of 8.8% after the closing of the polls).

According to the president of Isie, Farouk Bouasker, 1.025 million people out of just over 9 million registered voters voted.

The opposition political parties had interpreted this result as a snub for Saïed and a failure of the exceptional measures he had introduced since July 25, 2021, calling on the president to “leave power” as well as “the organization of an anticipated presidential election”.

However, for the tenant of the Palace of Carthage, “this participation rate is better than that of 99% which was announced during the previous rigged elections”, thus minimizing the record abstention rate of Tunisians in the legislative elections.

During the second round of legislative elections on January 29, 2023, 131 deputies were elected – including 22 women (16.8%) and 109 men (83.8) – out of the 161 seats in the new parliament, including 30 already filled in the first round.

In total, 895,002 voters voted out of the 7.85 million registered voters, specified the president of the electoral authority, Farouk Bouasker, ie a final participation rate of 11.4%.

With abstention peaking at 88.6%, the highest since the 2011 revolution which brought down the power of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the legislative elections of December 17, 2022 and January 29, 2023 represent the last step in the roadmap imposed by President Saïed, which is supposed to get Tunisia out of the crisis. However, critical voices believe that this election ratifies the return to square one on the political level, in other words to a “presidentialist regime”, in which the powers of the Presidency of the Republic (Carthage) are reinforced to the detriment of Parliament ( Bardo) and the Government (Kasbah).

Following the announcement of the preliminary results of the second round of legislative elections, the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main coalition of opponents – made up of five political parties, including Ennahdha, and five associations – called during press conference in Tunis, the other opposition parties, civil society organizations and the Ugtt trade union center (General Tunisian Labor Union) “to unite and work together to create change by causing the departure of Kaïs Saïed by all peaceful means and organize an early presidential election”.

According to the president of the FSN, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, “the new Parliament deprived of prerogatives will be recognized neither by the people nor by the political forces, it will only worsen the political crisis and stir up the conflict of legitimacy”.

” What to do ? Now the ball is no longer in Kaïs Saïed’s court. He no longer listens. He doesn’t learn any lessons. For him it’s as if nothing had happened (in allusion to the strong abstention of the Tunisians, editor’s note). Today there is an undeniable observation: the results of the second round attest to the failure of the legislative elections. We no longer expect anything from Saïed. I address the political and civil forces as well as the Ugtt, the League of Human Rights (Ltdh), and the National Order of Lawyers of Tunisia (Onat) to tell them that we are all embarked on the same boat,” Chebbi continued.

The appeal addressed to the powerful trade union center comes at a time when the Ugtt has formed a “Quatuor” with the Ltdh, the Onat, and the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES, non-governmental organization) around the “Initiative to save Tunisia”, which she presented at the end of 2022 with a view to “developing a roadmap to save the country from collapse”, sheltered from political tussles.

According to some experts, if the Tunisians shunned the two rounds of the legislative elections, it is because of the unanimous boycott of the ballot by the main opposition political parties, but also of the lack of interest in politics of a population crushed by the deterioration of the situation. economic situation (inflation which exceeds 10% according to the National Institute of Statistics, recurrent shortages of basic products) and hence the erosion of purchasing power. Another reason for this low turnout: the majority of candidates are unknown to voters and without a partisan label.

Only part of the dispatches, which Anadolu Agency broadcasts to its subscribers via the Internal Broadcasting System (HAS), is broadcast on the AA website, in a summarized manner. Please contact us to subscribe.


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