TUNIS: The fiasco of the legislative elections in Tunisia, marked on Saturday by a record abstention of more than 90%, is a snub for President Kais Saied, whose opposition is demanding the departure, and who finds himself delegitimized and very weakened in his negotiations with the IMF with a crucial loan for a timber economy.
“Failure”, a headline on Sunday in the Maghreb newspaper.
The leader of the main opposition coalition Ahmed Nejib Chebbi has called on the president to “leave office immediately” after the announcement of a participation rate of only 8.8% in the first round of a ballot organized to renew the Parliament.
This is the worst voter turnout in Tunisia since the 2011 Revolution that ousted dictator Zine EL Abidine Ben Ali from power and brought about the first democracy in the Arab world.
“It is a great popular disavowal for the process”, triggered on July 25, 2021 when Kais Saied had frozen Parliament and dismissed his Prime Minister, seizing all powers, Mr. Nejib Chebbi said in a telephone interview on Sunday. at AFP.
“92% have turned their backs on its illegal process which flouts the Constitution”, followed Mr. Chebbi, president of the National Salvation Front (FSN), which includes the Islamist-inspired movement Ennahdha, pet peeve of Mr. Saied. and former majority party in Parliament for the 10 years following the 2011 Tunisian Revolution.
He called on the other political parties to “agree on the appointment of a senior magistrate” capable of “supervising a new presidential election”.
After his coup and then the dissolution of Parliament, denounced for months as “a coup d’etat” by the opposition, the president said that he had a Constitution adopted this summer by referendum which drastically reduced the prerogatives of Parliament.
He also reformed the voting system used on Saturday for the legislative elections, by prohibiting any political affiliation for the candidates, most of whom were unknown, which, for the experts, won to drop the participation.
Most of the Tunisian parties, including the Free Destourian Party of Abir Moussi (anti-Islamist opposition) also boycotted Saturday’s election.
– “blocked situation” –
For political scientist Hamadi Redissi, the extremely low participation rate in the legislative elections “is unexpected because even the most pessimistic were counting on 30%” as in the referendum on the Constitution.
“It’s a personal disavowal for Mr. Saied who decided on his own,” added the expert interviewed by AFP, believing that “his legitimacy is in question”.
However, according to this expert, “the situation is blocked” because “there is no legal mechanism to impeach the president” in the new Constitution of 2022.
The new Parliament – which will only be formed after a second round by early March – does not have this power and can, at best, censure the government, but after a long and complex process.
For political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi, after the fiasco of the first round of legislative elections, Mr. Saied is “more isolated, from the elites, from the parties and now from the people too”.
“This rate never recorded (at such a level in an election) reflects the lack of confidence of the people. He has always availed himself of the support of the people but this turnout will be a shock, a jolt that could make him lose his balance,” revealed Mr. Jourchi.
The DSF has called for the mobilization of the various opposition forces, including through demonstrations.
But the opposition “is weak and divided” between the secular and progressive camp on the one hand, and the FSN united around Ennahdha on the other, underlined Mr. Redissi.
There is “little chance that it will unite as long as we have not resolved the Ennahdha question”, he said, about this formation to which a good part of the Tunisians, who initially supported the coup de force by Mr. Saied, blamed the economic and social failures of the past decade.
The population is very worried about the continued deterioration of its conditions: galloping inflation, very high unemployment and a poverty rate that affects 4 million of the 12 million Tunisians.
The DSF was not mistaken in also qualifying as “disavowal” – international this time – the report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the beginning of January at the earliest of a definitive agreement on a new loan of two billion dollars, requested by Tunisia and which should have been given on Monday.