Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Few Early Voters in Tunisian Election on Sunday

Few Early Voters in Tunisian Election on Sunday

Sunday, 29 January, 2023 - 11:15
A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the second round of the parliamentary election in Tunis, Tunisia January 29, 2023. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Tunisian polling stations were quiet on Sunday for run-offs in a parliamentary election that drew only 11% turnout in December's first round.

With political parties boycotting the vote, most candidates are independents and attention is likely to focus on whether there will be higher participation than there was in December, according to Reuters.

However, the electoral commission may use two separate metrics for turnout in the second round and will use Sunday's figure as the overall one for both rounds of the election, moves the opposition says are aimed at inflating the figures.

"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 shortly before voting was due to begin.

Inside the polling station, a Reuters journalist said no voters had appeared during the 20 minutes he spent there after polls officially opened.

At a cafe in Ettahrir only Mongi Layouni, one of seven men sitting drinking coffee, said he might vote.

"I don't know. Maybe I will go later," he said. Another man sitting in the cafe, who gave his name only as Imad, said he did not believe his vote mattered after Saied's political changes.

"The president alone is deciding everything," he said. "He does not care about anybody and we do not care about him and his elections".

At another polling station in the Ettadamon district, there were also few apparent voters. One, who gave his name as Ridha, said he was voting as a show of support for Saied despite the reduced role that the parliament will play.

"He is a clean man fighting a corrupt system," he said.

The president says his actions have been legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of economic stagnation and political crisis, and has accused his critics of treason, urging action against them.

Saied's new rules make the parliament subservient to the president, who now takes the lead in forming or dismissing governments. The rules also reduce the role of political parties, with parliamentary candidates listed only by name without reference to their party affiliation.

Since December's vote, state television has increased its focus on Sunday's runoff votes including through debates between candidates. The opposition has said this is part of an effort by the state to boost turnout.

The electoral commission, which Saied took ultimate authority over last year, will also supply two different figures, one for turnout among the whole electorate and one for turnout among voluntarily registered voters.

In December's election, the turnout figure was for the whole electorate. Maher Jdid, an electoral commission official, said on Shams FM radio this week that he expected turnout of between 20-30%.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Editor Picks