What’s subsequent for Tunisia after big election boycott?


Tunisia’s large election boycott has additional challenged the legitimacy of President Kais Saied, however a divided and discredited opposition poses little menace to his grip on energy, specialists say.

Just 9 p.c of voters confirmed up for the elections on Saturday for a parliament stripped of most powers beneath Saied, who final 12 months launched what critics have labelled a cold coup.

– Why was turnout so low? –

The legislative vote got here on the 12th anniversary of the occasion that sparked the nation’s pro-democracy rebellion, the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazizi.

The election capped a 12 months and a half of political turmoil since Saied sacked the federal government, surrounded parliament with tanks and seized full government powers in July 2021.

Few Tunisians confirmed any curiosity within the election, with no critical public debate among the many 1,055 candidates. Most had been unknowns and fewer than 12 p.c had been ladies.

Under a structure Saied rammed by in an additionally broadly ignored referendum in July, political events had been sidelined and candidates ran as people.

Most of the North African nation’s events, together with the Islamist-leaning Ennahdha that has dominated post-revolt politics, had urged a boycott.

The new meeting, in addition to having little in style backing, shall be largely toothless beneath a structure that makes it near-impossible for it to sack the federal government or maintain the president to account.

– How does it have an effect on Saied? –

Despite his grip on energy, the low turnout “is a huge disappointment for Saied because he was counting on popular support” to legitimise his actions, mentioned analyst Abdellatif Hannachi.

A former constitutional regulation lecturer, Saied was elected with 70 p.c of the vote in 2019.

He had made a string of public appearances within the earlier days to drum up voter curiosity, however turnout nonetheless got here in at a document low for Tunisian votes because the revolution.

“His popular legitimacy is collapsing,” mentioned skilled Hamadi Redissi.

“It has turned out to be an illusion built on speculation and chatter by his loyalists.”

– What can the opposition do? –

Both Ennahdha and its sworn enemy, the staunchly secularist Free Destourian Party (PDL), have demanded Saied step down and announce a presidential election.

But Redissi identified that “there is no mechanism to force him out”.

Youssef Cherif of the Columbia Global Centers mentioned he doubted Saied would step down “or even admit that these elections were a failure”.

When the structure handed within the referendum with simply over 30 p.c turnout, “he also refused to admit defeat”, Cherif mentioned.

Moreover, “as he has done everything to restore the presidential system that existed before 2011, the legislative elections are marginal in his eyes,” Cherif mentioned.

Tunisia’s opposition is deeply cut up, into three primary blocks: the Ennahdha-dominated National Salvation Front, leftist events and the PDL.

Much of the division stems from attitudes in direction of Ennahdha, which had held sway over Tunisia’s authorities and legislative course of for a decade till Saied’s energy seize.

Many Tunisians blame Ennahdha above all for the cash-strapped nation’s present financial and political woes.

The lack of opposition unity has meant that anti-Saied demonstrations not often collect greater than 7,000 folks.

Hannachi mentioned Saturday’s low participation confirmed that political events couldn’t mobilise the general public. The highly effective UGTT commerce union federation is likely one of the few actors able to mobilising mass protests.

“Only an economic collapse — which is obviously not desirable — could unblock the situation,” Redissi mentioned.

Tunisia is already in a deep financial downturn, with mounting public money owed, inflation at 10 p.c and spiralling poverty exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine.

– What do international powers suppose? –

Yet as Tunisia waits for the International Monetary Fund to log out on a nearly $2-billion bailout bundle, Hannachi famous that Saied had promised the nation’s international allies a roadmap.

“Now it has been put into action,” he mentioned.

The United States, which has been crucial of Saied’s energy seize, mentioned Sunday that the elections had been “an essential initial step toward restoring the country’s democratic trajectory”.

Washington’s backing shall be crucial for securing IMF funds which might then unblock different potential funding from European and Gulf international locations.

Redissi mentioned Western powers had been looking for a “balance between their values and their interests” when it got here to Tunisia.

The nation’s small measurement and inhabitants means it “doesn’t represent much” in a world of quickly shifting geopolitical forces.

“For (Western powers), the most important thing is the country’s stability,” he mentioned.