by Bouaza Ben Bouaza
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – Tunisian opposition figures called Sunday for the president’s resignation after disastrous parliamentary elections in which less than 9% of voters turned out.
The massive voter rejection was a dramatic development for the country that was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprising against autocratic leaders a decade ago – and the only one to emerge from that turmoil with a democratic political system.
Saturday’s election was to replace and reshape a legislature that was dissolved last year by President Kais Saied. This was one of several steps he took to consolidate his power and deal with Tunisia’s protracted economic and social crisis.
Election results are expected in the coming days.
Many opposition parties boycotted the voting, while many voters stayed away from voting.
About 800,000 voters took part in the election, out of about 9 million registered voters, according to provisional figures announced by Election Commission Chairman Farouk Buascar.
Opposition politician Ahmed Najib Chebbi described the unprecedented low turnout as “a real earthquake that will have serious consequences.”
Chebbi leads the Salvation Front coalition formed by five opposition parties, including the Islamist movement Ennahdha, which fielded the largest number of MPs in the dissolved parliament. In a statement to reporters on Sunday, he called on Saied to resign and called for early presidential elections overseen by an independent magistrate.
In legislative, presidential and local elections that have taken place in Tunisia since 2011 following a revolution that toppled longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, election officials say the average voter turnout was 40%. The referendum in July on Syed’s new constitution had the lowest voter turnout of 27% as of Saturday.
“Thank you to the great people of Tunisia,” the opposition party Ennahdha posted on Facebook in response to the vote’s results. “The people boycotted.”
The chairman of the opposition Free Destorians party also demanded Sayed’s resignation, as did the opposition Republican Party.
The Electoral Commission’s Bousker had predicted a turnout of around 30%. He said that participation was low because parties could no longer use the money to bribe voters according to new electoral rules.
Several reasons appeared for the low turnout, including voter disillusionment with the political class, their focus on financial concerns, as well as opposition to Sayyid’s political reforms. His critics said that he designed the elections without involving political parties or civil society.