Tunisians yesterday headed to the polls for the third round of legislative elections since the country’s 2011 revolution, weeks after a presidential vote swept aside the post-Arab Spring political establishment.
Polling stations for the 7 million electorate were set to remain open until 6pm, with preliminary official results scheduled for Wednesday, although exit polls were expected late yesterday.
The vote comes two weeks after the first round of a presidential election that eclipsed traditional political parties in favor of independent candidates, a trend likely to be repeated in the ballot for members of parliament.
More than 15,000 candidates on 1,500 lists are contesting 217 seats in a parliament dominated by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha in alliance with centrist party Nidaa Tounes that has been nearly destroyed by infighting.
At a polling station in central Tunis, voter Ribeh Hamdi, in her 60s, said she hoped the polls would bring “security and stability.”
Informal surveys, in the absence of opinion polls, predict Ennahdha would lose ground to the new Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party of jailed business tycoon Nabil Karoui, who has reached a two-way runoff in the presidential contest, with voting scheduled for next Sunday.
The sidelining of the ruling political class in the first round on Sept. 15 was rooted in frustration over a stagnant economy, high unemployment, failing public services and rising prices.
Karoui, a media mogul held since August on money-laundering charges, came second behind Kais Saied, an independent law professor. Courts have rejected several appeals for his release during the campaign.
Interim Tunisian President Mohammed Ennaceur — filling in since the death of Beji Caid Essebsi in July brought forward the vote for head of state — on Friday said that Karoui’s detention could have “serious and dangerous repercussions on the electoral process.”
While the presidential race might have overshadowed the legislative contest, parliament is responsible for tackling the main challenges facing Tunisian society.
A strong showing for Qalb Tounes could bolster Karoui’s campaign and supporters say it could make a case for him to take over as prime minister if he loses to Saied.
The socially conservative professor has not come out in support of any party.
With the electorate fed up with political maneuvering and failure to improve living conditions since the ouster of longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, new movements have been vying for votes.
Aich Tounsi, which calls itself an “anti-party,” has emerged from the civil society movement, while Islamist populist lawyer Seifeddine Makhlouf’s Karama aims to take seats from Ennahdha, which has been weakened by past alliances with political elites.
With the plethora of parties and movements in contention, the stage is set for complex and rowdy negotiations before any side emerges with the minimum 109 seats needed to head Tunisia’s next government.
In the run-up to the vote, Qalb Tounes and Ennahdha have officially ruled out forming an alliance.
Parliament will have two months to agree on the formation of a new government.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of
The Philippine army chief yesterday expressed outrage over the fatal police shooting of four soldiers, including two officers, and demanded justice, as both sides provided contrasting accounts of the killings. Philippine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Ano, a retired military chief of staff who now oversees the national police, ordered that the police involved in Monday’s violence in Jolo in Sulu Province be disarmed and restricted for investigation. Police said the soldiers were killed in a “misencounter” with a group of police officers. The army said that the two officers and two enlisted men were on a mission against