A Tunisian voter casts their ballot in the second round of parliamentary elections on Jan 29, 2023, in the capital Tunis.
(PHOTO / AFP)
TUNIS – Tunisia opened polls on Sunday for run-offs in a parliamentary election that drew only 11 percent turnout in the first round last month.
With political parties boycotting the vote, most candidates are independents and attention is likely to focus on whether there will be higher participation than there was in December.
Of the 161 electoral districts, runoffs will be held on Sunday in the 131 for which no candidate won more than half the votes in December. In several districts, only one candidate ran at all, and they have each been elected to the new parliament
"I'm not interested in elections that do not concern me," said Nejib Sahli, 40, passing an empty polling station in the Hay Ettahrir district of Tunis shortly before voting was due to begin.
President Kais Saied has decreed the new, mostly powerless, parliament as part of a reconfigured presidential system that he introduced after shutting down the previous parliament in 2021.
ALSO READ: Tunisian election to entrench president's rule
Saied's critics accuse him of seeking to dismantle the democratic system enacted after Tunisia's 2011 revolution, which sparked the Arab Spring, and they ridiculed December's ultra-low turnout as evidence that his changes lack popular support.
The president says his actions have been legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of economic stagnation and political crisis, and has accused his critics of treason, urging action against them.
A worsening economic crisis, that has caused shortages of some foods and medicines and led the government to seek an international bailout, has added to widespread disillusionment with politics.
On Friday Moody's credit ratings agency downgraded Tunisian debt saying the country would likely default on sovereign loans.
ALSO READ: New Tunisia constitution passed in vote with low turnout
Under the previous system, the parliament took the lead in choosing governments that set state policy and handled the daily running of the country. The president was only directly responsible for foreign affairs and defense.
Saied's new rules make the parliament subservient to the president, who now takes the lead in forming or dismissing governments. The rules also reduce the role of political parties, with parliamentary candidates listed only by name without reference to their party affiliation.
Since December's vote, state television has increased its focus on Sunday's runoff votes including through debates between candidates. The opposition has said this is part of an effort by the state to boost turnout.
READ MORE: Tunisian constitution panel head blasts president's draft
Of the 161 electoral districts, runoffs will be held on Sunday in the 131 for which no candidate won more than half the votes in December. In several districts, only one candidate ran at all, and they have each been elected to the new parliament.