Tunisia uncertainty after ballot snub, requires president to stop


Tunisia plunged into political uncertainty Sunday after voters overwhelming snubbed elections for a neutered parliament, as the principle opposition alliance known as on President Kais Saied to “leave immediately”.

The move comes as Saied’s authorities negotiates a nearly $2-billion bundle from the International Monetary Fund to bail out the North African nation’s crippled public funds.

The electoral board stated 8.Eight p.c of the nine-million-strong voters had turned out for Saturday’s polls, the fruits of an influence seize by Saied in the one democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring uprisings.

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, president of the National Salvation Front alliance, stated Saied had “lost all legal legitimacy”.

An abstention fee of greater than 91 p.c “shows that very, very few Tunisians support Kais Saied’s approach”, Chebbi informed AFP.

He stated the consequence confirmed “great popular disavowal” of the method that started when Saied, elected in 2019, seized govt powers final yr.

The president in July 2021 sacked the federal government, froze parliament and surrounded it with army automobiles, following months of political impasse and financial disaster exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Saied, a former legislation professor, adopted up by seizing management of the judiciary and pushing by way of a structure that consolidated his near-absolute energy in a extensively boycotted referendum in July.

His strikes, a decade after the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, have sparked fears of a return to autocracy.

– ‘Isolated’ –

Political analyst Slaheddine Jourchi stated Saturday’s “shock” low turnout had left Saied “more isolated from the elite, the parties — and now the people too”.

“This turnout, the lowest ever recorded, shows that the people have no trust” within the president, Jourchi added.

The National Salvation Front — which incorporates the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha celebration, Saied’s nemesis — boycotted Saturday’s election, saying it was a part of a “coup” in opposition to Tunisia’s democracy.

“The situation is critical,” Chebbi stated.

“We should agree on a high-ranking judge” who might “oversee immediate presidential elections”, he added.

Political scientist Hamadi Redissi known as the turnout “a personal disavowal for Mr. Saied”, including that the president’s “legitimacy is in question”.

But he stated the opposition was “weak and divided”, and that many Tunisians blame Ennahdha for the nation’s woes over the previous decade.

There can also be “no legal mechanism to dismiss the president” underneath the brand new structure, Redissi stated.

Abir Moussi, who heads the anti-Islamist Free Destourian Party, which additionally boycotted the vote, joined calls Sunday for Saied’s resignation.

– Broken guarantees –

The poll for the brand new 161-seat meeting adopted three weeks of barely noticeable campaigning, with few posters within the streets and no severe debate amongst a public preoccupied with day-to-day financial survival.

“The people are angry at the economic situation and the high cost of living,” stated Hamdi Belgacem, a 37-year-old unemployed man within the capital Tunis.

He stated he had backed Saied’s takeover final yr however had been left disillusioned.

“He (Saied) promised us investments, and he didn’t keep his promises,” Belgacem stated. “He promised us to fight corruption and he didn’t — he promised us a lot of things that he didn’t deliver.”

Saied’s strikes have been initially supported by some Tunisians bored with the messy and typically corrupt democratic system put in after the revolution.

But almost a yr and half on, the nation’s financial woes have gone from unhealthy to worse and inflation, at round 10 p.c, is increased than Saturday’s voter turnout.

The earlier Ennahdha-dominated legislature had far-reaching powers within the combined presidential-parliamentary system, enshrined in Tunisia’s post-revolution structure.

But the brand new chamber “won’t be able to appoint a government or censure it, except under draconian conditions that are almost impossible to meet,” analyst Redissi stated.

Candidates have been required to face as people, in a system that neuters political events.

Hamza Meddeb, a fellow on the Carnegie Middle East Center, stated the election was a “formality to complete the political system imposed by Kais Saied and concentrate power in his hands”.