Opinion poll confirms Destourian upsurge in Tunisian legislative landscape

Kais Saied maintains large lead over competitors in any presidential vote.
Tuesday 08/09/2020
Abir Moussi, takes part in a sit-in in front of the Municipal Theatre in Tunis, last July. She is holding a picture of first Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba.  (DPA)
Abir Moussi, takes part in a sit-in in front of the Municipal Theatre in Tunis, last July. She is holding a picture of first Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. (DPA)

TUNIS--The results of an opinion poll published by a political pollster Monday confirmed the upsurge of the anti-Islamist Free Destourian Party (PDL) among Tunisian voters’ declared preferences.

The opinion survey conducted by Emrhod Consulting, a private Tunisian polling agency, showed the PDL, led by woman lawyer Abir Moussi, would come ahead of of other competitors, including the Islamist Ennahda party, the Democratic Current and Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia), if legislative elections were held now.

Ennahda, which is currently the leading bloc in parliament with 54 seats out of 217, would get about 50 seats, with 23% of the projected vote according to survey.

The PDL, which currently controls 16 seats in the legislature, would win a projected 36% of the vote, which would mean control of a whopping share of 78 seats. Emrhod’s figures show steady progress in the PDL’s favourability ratings in recent months. The PDL’s political fortunes have moved up from 22% last June, 28% last July to their 36% level this month.

Qalb Tounes, which holds 38 seats in parliament, seems to be sliding in voter endorsement. It would receive only 8% of the vote if elections were held right now, compared to 11% in June.

Qalb Tounes, led by businessman and media executive Nabil Karoui, is rumoured to be interested in forging an alliance with far-right populist party The Dignity Coalition, which has 16 seats and a voter favourability rating of 6%.

Tunisian President Kais Saied would win the popular vote overwhelmingly, with 58% of the ballots, if a presidential poll were held now, projections show. He is followed by Moussi (17%) and Karoui (6%).

Saied has kept a large lead in opinion polls since his election last year.

While pro-Ennahda sentiment among voters remains limited to the party’s core support base, Moussi’s party appears to be riding on a wave of discontent about the performance of the political class, including the parliament, with socioeconomic indicators described by experts as alarming.

Unemployment is estimated at 18% and GNP contraction at no less than 21% during the first quarter of this year. The economic situation has faced an endemic slowdown since 2011 and has been made worse by the pandemic.

Moussi has succeeded in painting her party as an outsider and has in fact officially registered as part of the opposition to Hichem Mechichi after his confirmation last week in his position as the ninth prime minister since 2011.

Moussi, with ties to the ruling party of the authoritarian regime of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, which was toppled during the 2011 uprising, defends the legacy of Tunisia’s first President Habib Bourguiba and his successor, Ben Ali, but steers away from their authoritarianism even if she pleads for “restoring state authority.” She advocates for the exclusion of Islamists from politics through the courts.