Only 11% of voters cast ballots in the second round of Tunisia’s parliamentary elections, with critics of President Kais Saied saying empty polling stations are evidence of public disdain for his agenda and power grab.
However, Sunday’s runoff election was higher than the first round in December with a turnout of 8.8%.
“Nearly 90% of Tunisian voters ignored this charade and refused to participate in the process,” Ahmed Najib Chebbi, leader of the country’s main opposition National Salvation Front, told reporters.
I call on political groups and civil society to unite to work for change, in the form of the departure of Kais Saied and the holding of early presidential elections.
The Electoral Commission said that about 887 thousand voters cast their ballots out of a total of 7.8 million voters. Final results were not expected on Sunday. Major parties boycotted the vote and most seats are expected to go to independents.
Sunday’s low turnout was another blow to Saied, who has stripped the legislature of its powers and given himself sweeping power since taking office in 2021.
On July 25, 2021, Saied dismissed the government and froze parliament before dissolving it and moving forward with a new constitution, giving him nearly unlimited powers.
The latest poll is seen as the final pillar of Saied’s policy change, leading to the formation of a new legislative council that will have almost no power to hold the president or the government accountable.
Opposition groups have accused Saied of staging a coup to shut down the previous parliament in 2021 and say he destroyed the democracy established after the 2011 revolution in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring.
Saied said his actions were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of corruption and economic decline at the hands of a self-interested political elite.
Although its new constitution was approved by referendum last year, only 30% of voters turned out to vote.
An economic slowdown in Tunisia, where some basic commodities have disappeared from shelves and the government has cut subsidies as it seeks an external bailout to avoid bankruptcy, has left many disillusioned with politics and angry with their leaders.
We don’t want elections. “We want milk, sugar and cooking oil,” said Hasnaa, a shopkeeper from the Tadamon district of Tunis.
Many Tunisians initially appeared to welcome Saied’s seizure of power in 2021 after years of weak ruling coalitions that seemed unable to revive the moribund economy, improve public services or reduce gross inequality.
But Saeed did not formulate a clear economic agenda other than exposing the corruption and anonymous speculators he blamed for the price hike.
Ratings agency Moody’s on Friday cut Tunisia’s debt rating, saying it could default on sovereign loans.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report