Tepid turnout as Tunisians vote on toothless parliament

Polling started within the second spherical of elections for Tunisia’s toothless parliament on Sunday, however because the divided nation grapples with financial woes, turnout appeared set to be low.

Some 7.8 million voters are registered to forged ballots for 262 largely unknown candidates competing for 131 seats within the new legislature.

At 3:00 pm (1400 GMT), simply over 7.7 p.c had forged ballots, in response to electoral board chief Farouk Bouasker, who added that “Tunisians usually vote in direction of the top of the day”.

The legislature has been largely stripped of its authority following President Kais Saied’s dramatic 2021 energy seize, within the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

On July 25, 2021, Saied sacked the federal government and froze parliament earlier than dissolving it and pushing by means of a brand new structure — granting him virtually limitless powers and sweeping away the system that had emerged from the 2011 revolt.

The newest polls, whose first spherical in December noticed simply 11.2 p.c of registered voters participate, are seen as the ultimate pillar of Saied’s transformation of politics.

The brand new legislature can have virtually no energy to carry the president or authorities to account.

“There isn’t any approach I am voting,” mentioned Mohamed Abidi, 51, a waiter at a restaurant in Tunis.

“Saied is not listening to anybody to seek out options for our scenario. The entire financial system is struggling however he isn’t — he solely desires to maintain his place within the presidential palace.”

However within the southwestern city of Kasserine, voter Mokhtar Hermasi mentioned he was doing his “electoral obligation” regardless of a “bland marketing campaign”.

The pinnacle of the polling station mentioned voter numbers had picked up all through the day, noting that lots of these casting ballots have been older.

In Gafsa, a two-hour drive additional south, Mohamed Tlijani and Ali Krimi mentioned that they had each turned out to vote for Tlijani’s cousin.

“The electoral course of has turn into exhausting however we wish him to win, we now have the precise to have a consultant in parliament,” Krimi mentioned.

Analysts predict few of Tunisia’s eligible voters will forged their ballots within the second spherical, as main events together with Saied’s arch-rivals, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, name for a boycott.

– ‘Dramatic’ scenario –

Youssef Cherif, director of Columbia World Facilities in Tunis, mentioned “this parliament can have little or no legitimacy, and the president, who’s omnipotent because of the 2022 structure, will have the ability to management it as he sees match.”

Cherif additionally famous Tunisians’ “lack of curiosity” in politics.

With inflation at over 10 p.c and repeated shortages of fundamental family items, the North African nation’s 12 million individuals have been centered on extra fast points.

Rankings company Moody’s on Saturday downgraded Tunisia’s credit score rating to Caa2, citing “the absence of complete financing to this point to satisfy the federal government’s massive funding wants”.

The cash-strapped nation is struggling below debt price round 80 p.c of its gross home product.

Omrane Dhouib, an apprentice baker within the capital, mentioned he was struggling to make ends meet and had no religion within the nation’s political elite.

“Saied had the prospect to make radical modifications. He seized all powers however he did nothing,” he mentioned.

However taxi driver Belhassen Ben Safta was decided to vote to forestall a return to the earlier, Ennahdha-dominated system.

“We have to vote! We will not depart even the slightest risk that the outdated system returns.”

Greater than 32,000 Tunisians are estimated to have made clandestine bids to achieve Europe over the previous 12 months, as poverty and unemployment rise.

The election takes place within the shadow of drawn-out negotiations with the Worldwide Financial Fund for a bailout price practically $2 billion.

Cherif mentioned the talks have been stumbling over considerations held by the US for the way forward for Tunisian democracy and Saied’s obvious reluctance to “settle for the IMF’s diktats” on politically delicate points, together with subsidy reform.


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