Polls open in Tunisian election with turnout beneath scrutiny

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia opened polls on Sunday for run-offs in a parliamentary election that drew solely 11% turnout within the first spherical final month, a consequence that critics of the president mentioned undermined his claims of public help for sweeping political change.

With political events boycotting the vote, most candidates are independents and a focus is prone to deal with whether or not there might be greater participation than there was in December.

“I am not all in favour of elections that don’t concern me,” mentioned Nejib Sahli, 40, passing an empty polling station within the Hay Ettahrir district of Tunis shortly earlier than voting was as a consequence of start.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. (0700 GMT-1700 GMT).

President Kais Saied has decreed the brand new, largely powerless, parliament as a part of a reconfigured presidential system that he launched after shutting down the earlier parliament in 2021 and assuming broad management over the state.

Saied’s critics accuse him of in search of to dismantle the democratic system enacted after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which sparked the Arab Spring, they usually ridiculed December’s ultra-low turnout as proof that his modifications lack in style help.

The president says his actions have been authorized and crucial to save lots of Tunisia from years of financial stagnation and political disaster, and has accused his critics of treason, urging motion towards them.

A worsening financial disaster, that has triggered shortages of some meals and medicines and led the federal government to hunt a global bailout, has added to widespread disillusionment with politics.

On Friday Moody’s credit score rankings company downgraded Tunisian debt saying the nation would seemingly default on sovereign loans.

Beneath the earlier system, the parliament took the lead in selecting governments that set state coverage and dealt with the each day operating of the nation. The president was solely immediately chargeable for international affairs and defence.

Saied’s new guidelines make the parliament subservient to the president, who now takes the lead in forming or dismissing governments. The foundations additionally scale back the function of political events, with parliamentary candidates listed solely by title regardless of their social gathering affiliation.

Since December’s vote, state tv has elevated its deal with Sunday’s runoff votes together with by debates between candidates. The opposition has mentioned that is a part of an effort by the state to spice up turnout.

Of the 161 electoral districts, runoffs might be held on Sunday within the 131 for which no candidate received greater than half the votes in December. In a number of districts, just one candidate ran in any respect, they usually have every been elected to the brand new parliament.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall; Modifying by Toby Chopra)

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