Tunisians will soon head to the polls for the second time this year, in the first legislative elections to occur since Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament on July 25, 2021. He later dissolved parliament on March 30, 2022.
The elections, taking place next week, will also be the first since the constitutional referendum took place on July 25 and after Mr Saied issued new electoral regulations on September 15.
Here is everything you need to know about the new guidelines for Tunisia’s electoral system.
Voting on individuals instead of partisan lists
Electoral Decree 55, issued by Mr Saied on September 15, states that voters will choose individual candidates instead of party lists — system that had regulated parliamentary elections in the country since 2014.
Following the new regulations, several political parties announced a boycott of the coming elections, criticising the new system as a method to exclude parties from public life and the decision-making process.
Observers say this new individual-based electoral system is ill-suited for a democracy as nascent as Tunisia’s and will only boost candidates who have money for campaigning or a prominent public profile.
Critics have also pointed to the gender disparity on the final list of candidates running in the December 17 elections, with only 122 of the final 1,055 candidates being women.
Feminist organisations say such numbers are a strong blow to gender parity rules for the new parliament.
New electoral constituency boundaries
Mr Saied has spoken on several occasions of his vision to establish stronger local democracy and distribute power outside of Tunis.
One aspect of this vision will be the creation of new electoral districts based on municipalities instead of governorates.
In this system, every two adjacent municipalities are merged into one electoral constituency, resulting in 151 constituencies inside the country and 10 for Tunisians living abroad.
Due to this redrawing of the electoral map, some constituencies were left with only one candidate and some have no candidates at all, according to the official lists published by Tunisia’s electoral commission on Saturday.
Self-funding for candidates
Unlike the 2014 elections, when the state granted political parties and independent candidates a certain amount of funding for their electoral campaigns, these elections will prohibit any external acquisition of funding, besides the funds possessed by the candidates themselves.
ISIE, Tunisia’s electoral commission, said that candidates are bound by the new electoral law to provide traceable justifications for their campaign funding sources.
They cannot receive any form of external funding, including foreign funding.
Powers to remove MPs from office
Tunisia’s new electoral law was amended with one extra clause that allows for the nullification of an MP's authority if they are found to be negligent in their duties.
A petition to remove them from office in this way can only happen once within an MP's term and only within the final six months of that period.
It also depends on certain factors, such as the number of citizens petitioning to remove the sitting MP.
Elections and results timeline
Tunisians inside the country are expected to head to the polls on December 17, coinciding with the 12th anniversary of the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, an impoverished street vendor who self-immolated in protest against harassment by authorities. His actions sparked the 2010 uprising that changed the face of the country.
Tunisians living abroad will vote on December 15, 16 and 17.
The first vote counts, giving an indication of party gains and losses, are expected to be tallied and announced between December 18 and 20, then the preliminary results will be announced. Final results will be announced on January 19 after the conclusion of any appeals processes taken to Tunisia’s Administrative Court.