UPDATE 7-Tunisians elect weakened parliament on 11% turnout

(Provides opposition chief’s feedback, paragraph 4)

By Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall

TUNIS, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Tunisia introduced {that a} mere 11% of the voters had voted on Sunday in parliamentary runoffs, with critics of President Kais Saied saying the empty polling stations had been proof of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers.

The pinnacle of the electoral fee, over which Saied assumed final authority final yr, gave a provisional turnout of 11.3% for Sunday’s runoff votes.

Throughout December’s first spherical, the official turnout was solely barely decrease, at 11.2%.

“In the present day Tunisians issued a ultimate verdict rejecting Kais Saied’s course of and elections,” Nejib Chebbi, head of the primary opposition coalition, the Salvation Entrance, instructed a information convention.

Financial decline in Tunisia, the place some primary items have disappeared from cabinets and the federal government has minimize subsidies because it seeks a international bailout to avert chapter, has left many disillusioned with politics and indignant with their leaders.

“We do not need elections. We would like milk and sugar and cooking oil,” mentioned Hasna, a girl purchasing within the Ettadamon district of Tunis on Sunday.

The newly configured parliament has had its position shrunk as a part of a political system Saied launched final yr after an influence seize in 2021 that grants the presidency practically absolute energy.

About 887,000 voters solid ballots from a complete voters of seven.8 million, the electoral fee mentioned. Remaining outcomes weren’t anticipated on Sunday. The principle events boycotted the vote and most seats are anticipated to go to independents.

“I am not inquisitive about elections that don’t concern me,” mentioned Nejib Sahli, 40, passing a polling station within the Hay Ettahrir district of Tunis.

Unbiased observers, together with the native Mourakiboun group, have questioned official turnout figures, accusing authorities in lots of districts of withholding information they depend on to observe the election’s integrity.

The fee denied this and mentioned polling station officers had been too busy to cooperate with displays.

Opposition teams have accused Saied of a coup for shutting down the earlier parliament in 2021, and say he has trashed the democracy constructed after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution – which triggered the “Arab Spring”.

Saied has mentioned his actions had been each authorized and essential to avoid wasting Tunisia from years of corruption and financial decline by the hands of a self-interested political elite.

Although his new structure handed in a referendum final yr, solely 30% of voters took half.


Opposition activist Chaima Issa, who has led protests towards Saied and faces a army courtroom on expenses of insulting the president, described the ballot as a “ghost election”.

At one polling station within the Ettadamon district of Tunis, no voters attended in the course of the 20 minutes a Reuters journalist spent there.

At one other Ettadamon polling station, one voter who gave his identify as Ridha mentioned he was supporting Saied: “He’s a clear man preventing a corrupt system.”

In a restaurant in Ettahrir, one other district of the capital, solely one among seven males sitting consuming espresso mentioned he would possibly vote.

One other man within the cafe, who gave his identify solely as Imad, mentioned he didn’t consider his vote mattered after Saied’s political adjustments.

“The president alone is deciding all the pieces,” he mentioned. “He doesn’t care about anyone and we don’t care about him and his elections.”

Many Tunisians appeared initially to welcome Saied’s seizure of powers in 2021 after years of weak governing coalitions that appeared unable to revive a moribund financial system, enhance public providers or scale back stark inequalities.

However Saied has voiced no clear financial agenda besides to rail towards corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he has blamed for rising costs.

On Friday, Moody’s credit score scores company downgraded Tunisia’s debt, saying it could probably default on sovereign loans.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall; Modifying by Toby Chopra, Ros Russell and Kevin Liffey)

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