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Low turnout and splintered votes showcase discontent among Tunisians in parliamentary elections

The preliminary results of the recent legislative elections in Tunisia indicate that the Islamic Ennahda party will be the biggest party in the parliament, receiving roughly 23,9 percent of the votes, or 52 seats. Before official results were released representatives of the Ennahda movement and the Qalb Tounes party both claimed to have won the elections. But according to the preliminary results the party of presidential candidate Nabil Karoui, Qalb Tounes, is set to win 38 seats in the new parliament, followed by the Democratic Current party with 22 and the Al-Karama coalition with 21 seats. The elections were held amid security concerns and lack of confidence among Tunisians in the political elite, due to high unemployment, poor services and rising cost of living. Around 100,000 security officials patrolled some 4,500 polling stations on the country’s borders with Algeria and Libya. Still voter turnout proved to be historically low, with only 41% of the people casting their ballot, well under the 64% achieved in the legislative elections of 2014. Official results will be announced on November 17. The assembly will then be given two months to choose a prime minister and form a new government.

Minor irregularities noted by electoral commissio
The independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), recorded 1,592 infringements, including 238 violations considered “serious” by observers in the legislative elections of 6 October. ISIE member, Adel Brinsi reported that 118 offences were submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The ISIE officially cancelled Al Rahma party results in Ben Arous constituency . Moreover, they cancelled partial results of Aich Tounsi in the France 1 constituency. The parties are accused of disproportional political advertisement which directly impacted legislative results. Still the cancellation of these votes haven’t affected the order of the elections list in a decisive way.

Splintered parliament
Political experts argue that the splintered parliamentary landscape means any government will have problems with tackling the socioeconomic problems. With so many small parties and an increasing number of independents, majorities will be difficult to come by in crucial votes regarding needed reforms. Some say that although Ennahda looks like the winner, the anti-Ennahdha parties could be the real winner. The modernist and secularist sentiments are divided over multiple parties, but they still form a large block which could be vital in securing a majority in the legislative. 

Ennahda has the responsibility to form a coalition within two months, it seems like it has a big task ahead: in order to get a legislative majority, the coalition has to secure the support of 109 deputies. It will probably take 4 to 5 parties to form a majority, yet among the leading five parties, some are sworn enemies who have ruled out any cooperation with one another.  The leading party has two months to form a government. If it fails to do so, the president, who will be elected on October 13, must propose a prime minister, who likewise will be given two months to form a majority coalition. If the stalemate persists, the president can dissolve parliament and call for new elections.  With many parties specifically ruling out Ennahda, like the Free Destourian and Qalb Tounes parties, it will be difficult to form a coalition in the near future. Still, Ennahda leader, Rached Ghannouchi, expressed the willingness of the movement towards compromise, “as Islamist have always done since 2011”. Mohamed Ennaceur, the interim President, called for a national dialogue to overcome a possible stalemate.

Importance of Presidential elections
The outcome of the presidential elections could play a big role in upcoming negotiations. If Karoui wins the second round , he will most likely appoint a prime minister from his Qalb Tounes party, in case the first deadline of two months expires. Kaïs Saïed has recently been backed by Islamist parties like Karama and Ennahdha. If Saïed gets elected, he will probably push for a conservative Islamist coalition, appointing a  prime minister from the Ennahda or Karama movements.  Yesterday Karoui was released from prison after he successfully appealed his imprisonment. After he was released, Karoui demanded that the second round would be postponed, stating that a vote without a proper campaign wasn’t right. With the Ennahda movement , who back Saied, winning the legislative elections and Karoui’s Qalb party coming in second, the run-off race will be a tight one.

Sources: Aljazeera TAP1 TAP2 NYtimes1 NYtimes2 Arabweekly Businessnews Tunisianumerique