The Missing Voters

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Less than nine percent of registered voters showed up this weekend to vote in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections, a dismal turnout that is sparking questions over the legitimacy of the government following its takeover by President Kais Saied last year, the Middle East Eye reported Monday.

Officials announced Monday that runoffs will be held in most Tunisian regions on Jan. 20 after only 21 candidates secured victory in the first round of the controversial vote, Reuters added. Many Tunisians avoided voting booths and opposition parties boycotted the poll.

The vote comes more than a year after Saied dissolved parliament, sacked the prime minister and began ruling by decree, a move critics labeled as a coup.

Since then, Saied pushed for a new constitution that would limit parliamentary power and called for new parliamentary elections. Critics warned that the president’s power grab has chipped away at the democratic gains Tunisia made following the revolution that ousted autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than a decade ago.

Political analysts said the low turnout further tarnishes Saied’s legitimacy. They added he now faces more pressure as Tunisia’s economy continues to struggle and has asked the International Monetary Fund for assistance.

Meanwhile, the new elections could serve to embolden opposition parties, which have already called for the president to step down following the election and its very low turnout.

Even so, it is unclear what the opposition can do to return to power. Questions also remain about what the newly elected parliament can do about the authoritarian moves of the president, as Saied has altered legislative rules.

The United States, meanwhile, said the low voter turnout reinforced the need for the North African nation to further expand political participation in the coming months.

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