Tunisians boycotted the country’s elections on Saturday, with just 8.8% of the electorate turning up to vote for a new parliament.
Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended the Assembly of the People’s Representatives last July and dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, taking over the rule of the country by decree.
At that time, the parliament was slated for a 30-day suspension, but Saied continually extended the suspension, until last December, when he announced that it would last until this December election.
Since Saied’s power grab, Tunisia approved a new constitution that gives Saied’s office unchecked powers. The Tunisian opposition say the new constitution enshrines Saied’s “coup d’etat” of 2021.
Electoral commission head Farouk Bouasker sought to explain the “modest” turnout as a result of “the absence of foreign financing, in contrast to previous elections.”
“This was the cleanest election, with no vote-buying,” he said.
On Saturday, Saied said Tunisia was “breaking with those who destroyed the country.”
“Those who are elected today should remember that they are being watched by their voters, and that if they’re not up to the job, their mandate will be taken away,” Saied said at a polling station in a Tunis district.
Political analyst Youssef Cherif said the newly elected parliament “is supposedly more democratic and representative than all previous parliaments in the country’s history.”
Political scientist Max Gallien from the Institute of Development Studies, said Tunisia is “on track to deliver the lowest turnout of any election in modern global history, with half the participation of the previous record holders (Haiti in 2015, with 18%; Afghanistan in 2019, 19%).”
The preliminary results of the election are expected Monday, but the final result will likely not be available until January.
Tunisians have no faith in the political system, nor hope for the future, as they deal with an economic crisis both with frequent shortages of food, sugar and petrol, as well as an inflation rate of about 10%. More and more Tunisians are leaving the country.
“I don’t have any faith in the political class. They’ve used us as lab rats for all types of elections while the economy gets worse and worse,” said Mohammed Jraidi, a 40-year-old man from the city of Kasserine, who said he was boycotting the election.
“I don’t have any hope,” dentist Lamia Kamoun said. “I had hope in the country. Not now … Things have gotten worse.”
Others, such as Abdel Kader Tlijani, 55, said they were boycotting the elections because successive governments had “killed the revolution and killed our dreams.”
Ridha, a 59-year-old engineer from the capital said the vote was a “farce” and that “this president has disappointed us and he’s dragging us towards the abyss.”
The Tunisian opposition –Tunisia’s Salvation Front – called for Saied to quit on Saturday, referring to the low voter turnout and calling for “massive protests and sit-ins.”
“What happened today is an earthquake,” said Nejib Chebbi, who leads the multiple-party opposition coalition. “From this moment we consider Saied an illegitimate president and demand he resign after this fiasco.”
This year, Saied called on individuals, not political parties, to run in the election, which resulted in 1,055 independent candidates competing for the 161 seats of the Tunisian parliament, and lots of confusion regarding who was running, reported The Guardian.
According to analyst Hamza Meddeb, the election was a “formality to complete the political system imposed by Kais Saied and concentrate power in his hands.”
Almost all Tunisia’s political parties boycotted the election.