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Tunisia opposition calls for unity against the President after low election turnout

Tunisian politician Ahmed Najib Chebbi speaks during a press conference in the capital Tunis to announce the launch of the establishment of the "National Salvation Front", on   -  
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Official initial results after voting ended in Tunisia, Sunday (Jan. 29), highlighted that just 11.3 percent of voters had taken part in the poll.

The country’s main opposition coalition which includes the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha urged a united front against president Kais Saied.

"I call on all those who are part of the political movement and those who are in the civil movement to rise to this new challenge (ahead of us). Let's join hands to work for change, in the form of Kais Saied's departure," Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the National Salvation Front.

"Almost 90 percent, or rather 89 percent, of Tunisian voters ignored this farce and refused to be involved in this coup d'état scenario that does not represent them at all," he exclaimed.

The latest poll was seen as the final pillar of Saied's transformation of politics after he had the Constitution rewritten to give more power to the president.

Sunday's poor participation follows a similar turnout in December's first-round.

'Bland campaign'

Speaking after voting ended at 5:00 pm GMT, electoral board chief Farouk Bouasker said 887,638 out of more than 7.8 million registered voters had taken part in the poll, which followed December's widely boycotted first round.

Tunisians were divided over the poll.

Mohamed Abidi, 51, a waiter in Tunis, said there was "no way" he would vote.

"Saied isn't listening to anyone to find solutions for our situation. The whole economy is suffering but he's not interested -- he only wants to keep his place in the presidential palace," he said.

But in the southwestern town of Kasserine, Mokhtar Hermasi said he was doing his "electoral duty" despite a "bland campaign".

The head of the polling station where he voted said numbers picked up throughout the day, and many of those casting ballots were older.

According to the electoral board's initial figures, just five percent of those who voted were aged under 26, and more than two-thirds were men.

In Gafsa further south, Mohamed Tlijani and Ali Krimi said they had both voted for Tlijani's cousin.

"The electoral process has become exhausting but we want him to win, we have the right to have a representative in parliament," Krimi said.

Analysts had predicted a low second-round turnout, as major parties including Saied's arch-rivals Ennahdha, urged another boycott.

Youssef Cherif, director of Columbia Global Centers in Tunis, said before Sunday's poll that "this parliament will have very little legitimacy, and the president, who is all-powerful thanks to the 2022 constitution, will be able to control it as he sees fit".

With inflation above 10 percent and repeated shortages of household basics, the North African country's 12 million people have been focused on more immediate issues.

The National Salvation Front coalition said it would not recognise the new parliament, calling for early presidential elections."

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