Tunisians vote in second round of parliamentary elections

AFP , Sunday 29 Jan 2023

Polling began in the second round of elections for Tunisia's parliament on Sunday, but as the divided nation grapples with economic woes, all eyes will be on turnout.

Tunisia elections
An election official sits behind a desk at a voting station during the second round of parliamentary elections on January 29, 2023, in the capital Tunis. AFP


A total of 262 candidates are competing for 131 seats in the new legislature.

The elections for a new parliament come after President Kais Saied's sacked the government and froze parliament less than a year ago before dissolving it and pushing through with a new constitution granting him expanded presidential powers.

The expanded powers come in accordance with Article 80 of Tunisia’s constitution which permits the president to temporarily expand his or her powers in the prescence of an imminent threat to the state or its functioning. 

Saied is transforming Tunisia's parliamentary system of governance into a French-inspired presidential system, where the president plays a strong role and has powers to bypass parliament or dissolve it, Hind Ahmed Zaki, an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut said in an interview with the Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

In retrospect, the first round of polls in December, which saw just 11.2 percent of registered voters take part, is seen as the final pillar of Saied's transformation of politics.

Analysts predict few of Tunisia's 7.8 million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the second round, as major parties including Saied's arch-rivals, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, call for a boycott.

Economic situation

With inflation at over 10 percent and repeated shortages of basic goods from butter to cooking oil, Tunisia's 12 million people have been focused on more immediate issues.

Ratings agency Moody's on Saturday downgraded Tunisia to Caa2, citing "the absence of comprehensive financing to date to meet the government's large funding needs".

The election takes place in the shadow of Tunisia's drawn-out negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout worth nearly $2 billion.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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