Tunisia: Tentative turnout in Tunisia hovers around 8 percent amid reports of media repression

File – File image of the legislative elections in Tunisia. – Hasan Mrad/IMAGESLIVE via ZUMA P / DPA

Only 7.79 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots by 3 p.m. this afternoon in the second round of the legislative elections being held this Sunday in Tunisia, characterized by widespread voter apathy and criticism from several media outlets against the impediments presented by the authorities when it came to covering the elections.

The head of the Independent Higher Authority for Elections, Faruq Buaskar, has described the provisional participation percentage as a «respectable» figure, and pointed out that the voting process is progressing smoothly and without any significant irregularities, according to comments reported by Mosaique FM radio station.

Later, the Commission’s official spokesman, Mohamed al Tlili al Mansari, indicated that the mere fact of publishing such disappointing percentages for the government’s participation aspirations serves precisely to demonstrate the transparency exhibited by the authorities.

«The authority provides with full transparency all the numbers regarding the voting processes in the second round of the legislative elections, and without fear of giving the correct information,» he assured.

Some 262 candidates, including only 34 women, are running for 131 seats in an election in which only 11.2 percent of registered voters participated in the first round last month, amid calls for total political reform of the current system imposed by the president, Kais Saied.

Saied has pushed since July 2021 a series of measures to reform Tunisia’s political system, including a constitutional referendum, approved amid opposition boycott, which strengthens the powers of the presidency. The opposition has denounced an authoritarian drift of the president and has demanded his resignation.

In this context, Mosaique FM has denounced that several photojournalists and journalists from multiple media have been hindered in their coverage of the elections by being banned from accessing some polling stations.

Sabra regional radio correspondent Samia Nasri complained that security forces prevented her from taking pictures of several polling stations in the Ain Jalloula, Waslatia and Sbeija constituencies. Journalist Siham Hamdi, of Radio Al Hayat, also reported impediments in these same places.

The deputy head of the Independent Higher Authority for Elections, Maher al Jedidi, stressed in statements to the same media that he will investigate these accusations.