Tunisians elect a marginalized parliament in the shadow of President Syed

Tunisians elect a marginalized parliament in the shadow of President Syed

Tunisians will vote on Saturday to renew their parliament, in a vote that most parties boycotted, the last step in building a super-presidential system since the coup of state president Gais Said a year and a half ago.

After voting in Tunis, President Syed called for the mobilization of 9 million voters. “This is a historic opportunity to reclaim your legitimate rights,” he said, adding, “We have broken with those who destroyed the country.”

Some Tunisians seemed hopeful: at several offices in the center of the capital, a handful of voters showed up in the early hours of the polls, which close at 5:00pm GMT.

“We know it’s not the usual turnout, it’s lower than expected,” Noureddine Jouini, head of the Rue de l’Inde office, told AFP.

In contrast to these findings, Farouk Bouasker, head of the Isie Electoral Commission, said, “As of 10:00 am, we have registered 270,032 votes, an average vote (this summer) and a significant number compared to the presidential election 2019”.

“Elections are a duty, it has to be done,” 48-year-old lawyer Ali Bejau, met in another office on rue de Marseille, told AFP. He never missed an election even under the dictatorship of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On July 25, 2021, Mr. Syed wanted to replace the frozen (later dissolved) new chamber with 161 representatives.

Mr. Syed has imposed a two-round, first-class-postal system to marginalize political parties.

“An Obligation”

The result: They ignore the referendum, first by the movement of Islamist inspiration, Ennahda, at the center of the political game for 10 years and a pet of President Syed.

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Salima Bahri, a 21-year-old student interviewed by AFP on the outskirts of Tunis, will not go to vote because her vote “isn’t going to change anything!”. “In the absence of political parties, no other choice can be made! Candidates will represent President Qais Syed, not the Tunisian people,” he said.

“I am not participating in a mask march. This president has betrayed us, he is leading us to the abyss,” said Rita, a 59-year-old engineer who declined to give her name.

Mostly unknown and new to politics, half of the candidates (1,055, revised count) were teachers or middle-level civil servants, and less than 12% were women.

The new parliament, after a second round convened in early March, will be given limited powers under the new constitution. Mr. Syed polled overwhelmingly (nearly 70%) this summer.

He cannot impeach the President and it is practically impossible for him to condemn the government. Ten delegates are needed to propose a law and the president must prioritize passing his own law.

“A Ritual”

“This vote is a formality to complete the political system imposed by Qais Syed and concentrate power in his hands,” political scientist Hamza Medeb told AFP.

“The Tunisian people know that the parliament will be stripped of all power,” he said.

With inflation running at around 10% and recurrent food shortages, the main concern of 12 million Tunisians is the high cost of living.

The powerful UGTT trade union center considered these assembly elections unnecessary.

Hamish Kinnear, an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said that “while the democratic legitimacy of parliamentary elections remains weak,” establishing a parliament would allow “a return to greater political predictability” and make it easier for Tunisia to receive aid. from foreign donors.

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Urgent as the country’s coffers are empty.

The IMF has postponed its final green light for a loan of about $2 billion to Tunisia until early January, after officials did not complete their file on time.

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