What to know about Tunisia’s municipal elections

Vote results showed that 47.5% of those elected are women.
Sunday 13/05/2018
Election officials count the results of the municipal vote at a sorting centre in Tunis, on May 7. (AP)
Election officials count the results of the municipal vote at a sorting centre in Tunis, on May 7. (AP)

Who won what

Independent candidates won 32.2% of the vote in Tunisia’s municipal elections, results released by the independent elections commission stated.

The breakthrough for the independents in the vote May 6 is considered a sign of frustrations of the populace and civic activists about the performance of the ruling elites since 2011.

The independents’ strong showing, however, is unlikely to translate into important roles in running the country’s 350 municipalities. Independents are divided by ideological backgrounds and municipal agenda. They range from radical Salafists to liberals and former communists.

Bargaining has begun among political parties to build alliances or point out differences ahead of next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

Islamist Ennahda, which won 28.6% of the vote, came first in 155 of the country’s contested 350 municipalities.  It finished ahead of secularist ally Nidaa Tounes (20.8%).

Vote surprises

Former interim President Moncef Marzouki’s populist Al-Irada party received 1.3% of the vote belittling Marzouki’s claims that his party is the alternative to Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes to lead the country in 2019 and revive the “revolutionary spirit” of the “Arab spring.”

The Democratic Current, founded by Marzouki’s former ally and former rights activist Mohamed Abbou, won 4.9% of the vote ahead of the Popular Front, an alliance of a dozen of leftist and nationalists groups, with 3.9%.

Gender parity

The elections were the first test of the gender parity provision in municipal elections.

Vote results showed that 47.5% of those elected are women. However, only 29.5% of the lists headed by women were successful compared to 70.3% for men, slimming the chances of women to take top positions in leading the municipalities.

Youth factor

More than 63% of the candidates aged 35-45 won seats even though most young Tunisian voters stayed away from the ballots. More than a third of those who won seats were under the age of 35.

The elections law imposed quotas for youth to lure younger voices to politics.

Turnout

The voter turnout was 35.6%, the lowest in seven years when Tunisia had already had three elections with much higher turnout rates.

The highest rate in the municipal elections was at el Masdour Menzel Harb in the coastal region of Monastir with 69% and the lowest in the Ettadhamen working-class district in Tunis at 18.46%.

Monastir is the hometown of Tunisia’s modern founder, late President Habib Bourguiba. Ettadhamen is the area from where most feared Islamic State fighters in Syria’s Raqqa hailed.

What’s next

Observers will watch whether squabbling about who gains top positions in the municipal boards exacerbates underlying tensions between Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda. Expected litigation over electoral abuse allegations is not expected to change much of the results.

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