Published: 2022-12-18 11:59
Last Updated: 2023-06-07 08:03
Tunisians on Saturday overwhelmingly boycotted an election for a new parliament which will have virtually no authority following a power grab by President Kais Saied in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, according to AFP.
Electoral board president Farouk Bouasker said that by close of polls at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT), just 8.8 percent of the nine-million-strong electorate had cast votes.
That would be the lowest participation in any poll since the revolution.
Opposition groups boycotted the election, saying it was part of a "coup" against the only democracy to have emerged from the 2011 uprisings across the region.
Bouasker acknowledged turnout was "modest" but said it could be explained by "the absence of foreign financing, in contrast to previous elections."
"This was the cleanest election, with no vote-buying," he said.
Preliminary results are expected Monday.
The National Salvation Front, the main opposition alliance which includes Ennahdha, described the low turnout as "seismic," and called on the president to bring all political forces together for consultations.
The ballot followed three weeks of barely noticeable campaigning, with few posters in the streets and no serious debate among a public preoccupied with day-to-day economic survival.
It comes almost a year and a half after Saied deployed military vehicles to suspend parliament, following months of political deadlock and economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
His power grab sparked fears for the democracy ushered in after the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In the impoverished central city of Kasserine, Mohammed Jraidi, 40, said he was boycotting the poll.
"I don't have any faith in the political class," he said. "They've used us as lab rats for all types of elections while the economy gets worse and worse."
Tunisia expert Youssef Cherif said that even though turnout was just nine percent, the parliament being elected "is supposedly more democratic and representative than all previous parliaments in the country's history."