Tunisian election records 11% turnout in rejection of president’s reforms | Tunisia
Just 11% of voters voted in the second round of the Tunisian parliamentary elections, with critics of President Kais Syed saying the empty polling stations were evidence of public contempt for his agenda and a seizure of power.
Sunday’s second round, however, was higher than the first round in December, in which participation was 8.8%.
“Nearly 90% of Tunisian voters ignored this theatrical production and refused to participate in the process,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the country’s main opposition National Salvation Front, told reporters.
“I call on political groups and civil society to join forces to bring about change in the form of Qais Syed’s departure and early presidential elections.”
According to the election commission, about 887,000 voters voted out of a total of 7.8 million voters. No final results were expected on Sunday. The major parties boycotted the vote and it is expected that the majority of the seats will go to the independents.
Sunday’s poor participation was another blow to Syed, who stripped the legislature of its powers and vested itself with far-reaching power following his dramatic 2021 power grab.
On July 25, 2021, Said sacked the government and froze parliament before dissolving it and pushing through a new constitution that gave him almost unlimited powers.
The latest poll was seen as the final pillar of Syed’s policy transformation, opening up a new legislature with little to no power to hold the president or government accountable.
Opposition groups have accused Said of a coup for shutting down the previous parliament in 2021 and say he destroyed the democracy built after the 2011 Tunisian revolution that sparked the “Arab Spring”.
Said said his actions were legitimate and necessary to save Tunisia from years of corruption and economic decline at the hands of a vested political elite.
Although its new constitution was adopted in a referendum last year, only 30% of voters took part.
The economic downturn in Tunisia, where some essential goods have disappeared from the shelves and the government has slashed subsidies in a bid to get bailouts from abroad to stave off bankruptcy, has left many disillusioned with politics and angry at their leaders.
“We don’t want elections. We need milk, sugar and cooking oil,” said Hasna, a woman shopping in the Tunisian district of Ettadamon on Sunday.
At first, many Tunisians welcomed Said’s rise to power in 2021 after years of weak ruling coalitions that seemed unable to revive a dying economy, improve public services, or reduce stark inequalities.
But Said hasn’t voiced a clear economic agenda other than to oppose corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he blames for the rise in prices.
On Friday, rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tunisia’s debt rating, saying it is likely to default on sovereign loans.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report