Tunisians expressed their dismay at president Kais Saied’s seizure of powers by failing to turn up to vote
A mere 11% of the electorate voted in Tunisia’s parliamentary runoffs, with critics of president Kais Saied saying the empty polling stations were evidence of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers.
Sunday’s runoff vote was however higher than December’s first round, which had a participation rate of 8.8%.
“Almost 90% of Tunisian voters ignored this piece of theatre and refused to be involved in the process,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the country’s main opposition the National Salvation Front, told journalists.
“I call on political groups and civil society to join hands to work for change, in the form of Kais Saied’s departure and early presidential elections.”
About 887,000 voters cast ballots from a total electorate of 7.8 million, the electoral commission said. Final results were not expected on Sunday. The main parties boycotted the vote and most seats are expected to go to independents.
Sunday’s poor participation was another blow to Saied, who has stripped the legislature of its powers and granted himself far-reaching authority since his dramatic 2021 power grab.
On 25 July 2021, Saied sacked the government and froze parliament before dissolving it and pushing through a new constitution, granting him almost unlimited powers.
The latest poll was seen as the final pillar of Saied’s transformation of politics, ushering in a new legislature that will have almost no authority to hold the president or government to account.
Opposition groups have accused Saied of a coup for shutting down the previous parliament in 2021, and say he has trashed the democracy built after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution – which triggered the Arab spring.
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.
Economic decline in Tunisia, where some basic goods have disappeared from shelves and the government has cut subsidies as it seeks a foreign bailout to avert bankruptcy, has left many disillusioned with politics and angry with their leaders.
“We don’t want elections. We want milk and sugar and cooking oil,” said Hasna, a woman shopping in the Ettadamon district of Tunis on Sunday.
Many Tunisians appeared initially to welcome Saied’s seizure of powers in 2021 after years of weak governing coalitions that seemed unable to revive a moribund economy, improve public services or reduce stark inequalities.
But Saied has voiced no clear economic agenda except to rail against corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he has blamed for rising prices.
On Friday, Moody’s credit rating agency downgraded Tunisia’s debt, saying it would probably default on sovereign loans.
Source : The Guardian