Tunisia’s President Saied Blames Low Voter Turnout on Hatred of Parliament

Tunisia: Critics of President Kais Saied Jailed in Crackdown (News Central TV)
CORRECTING PHOTOGRAPHER BYLINE TO SLIM ABID – Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, center, leads a security meeting with members of the army and police forces in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, July 25, 2021. Troops surrounded Tunisia’s parliament and blocked its speaker Rached Ghannouchi from entering Monday after the president suspended the legislature and fired the prime minister following nationwide protests over the country’s economic troubles and the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Slim Abid)

Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied has blamed the ultra-low turnout for parliamentary elections on hatred among parliament voters, rather than a decline in his own popularity.

Only 11.4% of the electorate voted in parliamentary runoffs on Sunday, according to the electoral commission. Critics of President Kais Saied claimed that the empty polling booths demonstrated public disdain for his agenda and seizure of power.

Tunisia's President Blames Low Voter Turnout on Hatred of Parliament (News Central TV)
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo

Opposition parties demanded Saied resign after what they call a huge failure, claiming that early parliamentary and presidential elections were the only way out of the crisis.

Saied called his critics “traitors” and denied the accusations.

“90% did not vote… This confirms that Tunisians no longer trust this institution… During the past decade, Parliament has been an institution of absurdity and a state within the state”, Saied stated.

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“Our popularity is greater than theirs”, he added during a meeting with prime minister Najla Bouden.

In 2021, Saied closed parliament with tanks, dismissed the government, and began ruling by decree, which the opposition called a coup. He accused lawmakers of accepting large sums of money in exchange for passing legislation.

As part of a political system introduced by Saied last year, the newly configured parliament’s role has been reduced.

Tunisia's President Blames Low Voter Turnout on Hatred of Parliament (News Central TV)

Many Tunisians appeared to welcome Saied’s assumption of power two years ago, after years of weak governing coalitions appeared incapable of reviving a dormant economy, improving public services, or reducing stark inequalities.

However, Saied has not articulated a clear economic agenda other than railing against corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he blames for rising prices.

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The new parliament, unlike the previous one, will have limited powers. The president will be in charge of forming and dismissing governments.

Over the last decade, parliament has wielded considerable power, appointing and dismissing governments. Despite political tensions in the previous parliament since the revolution, it had the power to dismiss the president and hold all officials accountable.

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