Tunisia's Kais Saied plays down low turnout in elections

Only 11 per cent of eligible voters took part in this month's poll

Tunisia's President Kais Saied votes in the legislative elections in Tunis. AP
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Tunisia's President Kais Saied on Wednesday played down the huge abstention in this month's parliamentary elections and slammed critics who have accused him of dragging the country towards dictatorship.

Only 11.2 per cent of registered voters took part in the December 17 polls for a weakened Parliament, which capped Mr Saied's overhaul of the political system since his sweeping power grab last year in the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

Turnout, initially announced at just under nine per cent, was the lowest since the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and was regarded as a blow to Mr Saied and his political programme.

"Turnout of nine per cent or 12 per cent is better than 99 per cent in previous elections, which were welcomed by foreign countries even though they knew they were rigged," he told his Cabinet.

Mr Saied then lashed out at unidentified critics, accusing them of "drowning in corruption and treachery" and of "plotting against the state" and its "internal and external security".

"This cannot continue and these people cannot go unpunished," he said in a video posted on his office's Facebook page.

The president's power grab began in July last year, when he sacked the government and suspended parliament before he moved to seize control of the judiciary.

Mr Saied also accused detractors of being behind repeated shortages of basic goods in recent months, saying they aimed to "incite against institutions of the state".

He denied accusations that human rights have been undermined in recent months, calling those who made such claims "mercenaries".

Updated: December 29, 2022, 1:08 AM