January 29, 2023
Tunisia’s parliamentary run-off election on Sunday looked set to replicate the low turnout of December’s first round, with voter participation at just 7.7 percent by the afternoon.
Tunisian voters cast their ballots in the second round of parliamentary elections on January 29, 2023. © Fethi Belaid, AFP
By FRANCE 24 with REUTERS
The newly configured and much less powerful parliament is a central element of a political system President Kais Saied introduced last year after a July 2021 power grab that granted the presidency nearly total sway.
In the first round of voting for the parliament in December only 11% of the electorate took part, according to official data.
Early turnout figures released by the electoral commission on Sunday showed little improvement. Electoral commission figures indicated 7.7% turnout by 3pm, only slightly higher than the 7.2% registered by the same time in December’s vote.
“I’m not interested in elections that do not concern me,” said Nejib Sahli, 40, passing a polling station in the Hay Ettahrir district of Tunis early on Sunday.
Independent electoral observers, including the local Mourakiboun group, have questioned official turnout figures, accusing authorities in many districts of withholding data they rely on to monitor the election’s integrity. “This strikes strongly at the transparency of the election and any numbers provided by the authorities,” said Mourakiboun head Slim Bouzid.
Opposition groups are mostly boycotting the election but remain divided among themselves on how to move forwards.
Saied has said his actions were both legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of corruption and economic decline at the hands of a self-interested political elite.
Though his new constitution passed in a referendum last year, only 30% of voters took part.
A Reuters journalist at one polling station in the Ettadamon district of Tunis said no voters attended during the 20 minutes he spent there.
A deepening economic crisis that has caused shortages of some foods and medicines, and led the government to seek an international bailout, has added to widespread disillusionment with politics.
“We don’t want elections. We want milk and sugar and cooking oil,” said Hasna, a woman shopping in Ettadamon on Sunday.