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Tunisia records low turnout for election of 2nd chamber of parliament

Tunisia records low turnout for election of 2nd chamber of parliament
A voter casts her ballot while voting at a polling station during the 2023 local elections in the   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Tunisia's local elections on Sunday (December 24) faced significant voter disapproval as citizens largely rejected the initiative.

The elections, intended to establish a second parliamentary chamber, are seen by the opposition as another step in President Kais Saied's authoritative governance.

According to the Independent High Authority for Elections (Isie), a mere 11.66% of the 9 million eligible voters (out of a population of 12 million) participated in the polls.

President Saied, elected in October 2019, has consolidated all powers since July 25, 2021. Having amended the Constitution through a summer 2022 referendum, the new structure includes a two-chamber Parliament: the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP) and a National Council of Regions and Districts.

The ARP, which has very limited powers, took office in the spring of 2023 after legislative elections were boycotted by the opposition and massively rejected by voters (11% turnout).

The investiture of the second chamber is scheduled for June 2024, at the end of a complex process of local ballots and draws.

The Council will decide on the state budget and regional development projects.

On Sunday, Tunisians were invited to elect more than 2,000 local councillors from around 7,000 candidates, according to the electoral authority Isie.

In addition to the 2,155 councillors elected (some of whom will be elected after a second round at the beginning of 2024), 279 people with disabilities will be drawn at random from a thousand candidates. Regional councillors will then be drawn by lot from among the local councillors, who will then vote among themselves to appoint district councillors.

At the top of the pyramid, the 77 members of the second chamber of parliament will be chosen by votes from regional and district councillors.

Most polling stations in the centre of Tunis were open from 08:00 to 18:00 local time, with low turnout, AFP reported.

What are the people saying?

"I have never seen such a low turnout for elections held in Tunisia since 2011," the year that marked the start of the Arab Spring, the president of a polling station in Tunis told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"I understand the people who are shunning these elections", Salah Habib, a man in his sixties who has just "voted to mark my presence", told AFP.

"I didn't understand anything about this election and I don't want to understand anything," said Nadia Majer, a 23-year-old student leaving a gym.

When will the results be announced?

The Isie will announce the preliminary results of the first round on 27 December. The second round is scheduled for February.

The opposition has called for a boycott of this "illegal" vote, which it claims was "imposed" by President Said to complete his "authoritarian" process.

Since February, the authorities have imprisoned more than twenty opponents, including the leader of Ennahdha, Rached Ghannouchi, and the co-founder of the National Salvation Front - the main coalition of opponents - Jawhar Ben Mbarek, as well as former ministers and businessmen.

More than 260 prominent Tunisians have signed a nationwide petition opposing a "pointless" election, saying that those in power "continue to implement their political project imposed on Tunisians".

According to the signatories, the purpose of these elections is to "weaken local power, disperse it and turn it into another docile instrument in the hands of the executive".

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