Preliminary results show low turnout in Tunisian elections

Only a slight difference was recorded compared to the first round of elections last December

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Tunisians voted on Sunday for the remaining 131 seats in their parliament’s House of Representatives, with a low turnout rate that observers say would undermine the power of the legislature.

Only 11.3 per cent of Tunisia’s more than seven million eligible voters took part in the parliamentary elections, Farouk Bouasker, president of Tunisia’s Independent High Election Authority, said on Sunday evening after all ballot stations closed.

“The overall electoral process took place smoothly with no significant violations registered,” Mr Bouasker said.

But the electoral body said that it decided to fully or partially cancel some candidates’ votes over electoral crimes that were considered to have affected the final results.

Its Gasserine office said it registered seven breaches in the district after reports that one candidate was handing out money to sway voters.

Sunday’s ballot was the second and final round of vote for the first chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives, which is expected to have 154 seats, with seven missing due to an absence of candidates.

The elections body denied claims by some observers and media outlets of a lack of transparency.

“The authority’s board does not give instructions to its working members to withhold information from journalists and observers,” said Maher Jdid, a member of the commission.

Another member, Mohamed Tlili Mnassri, said: “There will be time for evaluation. There are clear laws and we will release detailed reports in the upcoming period.

“Whoever questions the numbers, there are legal proceedings and observations from Tunisia’s administrative court, civil society and media. We are not afraid."

Mr Bouasker also responded to the claims.

“Just throwing accusations on social media and on media channels is not enough," he said on Sunday night.

"Whoever has proof that we have committed fraud or falsified percentage and results should had to penal and administrative courts in this regard.

“We respect criticism but we will not stay quiet while faced with defamation."

Mr Mnassri said that it was too early to predict a date for elections of the second chamber, the National Council of Regions and Districts.

“The elections would need a law that will certainly be issued by the upcoming parliament,” he said, in response to a question from The National.

Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended the previous parliament in July 2021, before its dissolution in early 2022, and later introduced a new constitution that was passed in a referendum in July.

The first round of the parliamentary elections took place on December 17, with a record low turnout that critics say does not qualify as a minimum threshold to give the coming parliament any legitimacy.

The country has been experiencing its worst economic crisis, with an increasing inflation rate that is expected to reach 10.5 per cent in 2023. Essential commodities and food are going out of stock.

Critics believe that Tunisia’s election of a new parliament would not be enough to get the country out of its current predicament, saying Mr Saied and his government's inaptitude are the cause of the crisis.

Updated: January 30, 2023, 4:49 AM