Tunisian president issues decree amending electoral law before December elections

New text, published in the official gazette, includes cancellation of list-based electoral system

Tunisian President Kais Saied has made new changes to the country's electoral law through a presidential decree. AP
Powered by automated translation

Tunisian President Kais Saied has issued a presidential decree amending the country’s electoral law before the legislative elections in December.

The decree, which amends Tunisia’s electoral law that dates back to May 2014, was published in the official gazette late on Thursday and includes major changes, notably the cancellation of the list-based electoral system and its substitution with a direct, individual-based electoral system.

It sets the number of seats in parliament at 161 instead of the previous 217, and brings the total number of constituencies to 161, of which 151 are inside the country and 10 are for citizens living abroad.

Seats in parliament for each governorate vary depending on population distribution, with more seats going to more populated governorates.

Amendments to the law include conditions for candidates and voters, recommendations for running in elections, a deadline for appealing results, guidelines for campaigning and more.

For example, Article 19 of the presidential decree states that those looking to run for seats in parliament must hold only Tunisian citizenship — with an exception made for candidates in constituencies outside of Tunisia — be at least 23 years of age, have no criminal record and be a resident of the constituency they aim to represent.

Article 20 of the same decree outlines groups who cannot run for seats in parliament, including members of government and heads of government offices, judges, heads of diplomatic and consular centres, governors, local governorate-level officials such as mayors, imams and presidents of sports clubs and associations.

The new law requires members of these groups to have been out of office for at least a year before being able to run for parliament.

The decree also added new articles to the law, including the possibility of MPs who do not fulfil their duties or who violate certain rules of conduct being stripped of their titles via an official demand made by their respective constituencies.

The new article states that such a petition could only be made once during a mandate and at least a tenth of registered voters in each constituency would need to sign on to such a petition for it to be considered valid.

Mr Saied said during a Cabinet meeting that a complementary decree will be issued in the coming period to outline the electoral process for a new second chamber of parliament as well as a text regulating the interaction between the two chambers.

The electoral amendments have received mixed feedback so far, with some critics saying the law is based on exclusion and favours the president’s individualistic tendencies.

However, Mr Saied denied these claims in yesterday’s Council of Ministers meeting, saying: “The upcoming elections will not exclude anyone once they have met all objective conditions as laid out in the electoral law.”

Farouk Bouasker, president of the electoral commission ISIE, said that preparations for the December elections have been officially launched and more details will be released to the public soon.

Updated: June 14, 2023, 7:25 AM