In Tunisia, the Question is To Vote or Not to Vote

2014 elections logo, via the Facebook page of the independent election commission

2014 elections logo, via the Facebook page of the independent election commission

As elections near in Tunisia, netizens are debating whether it is worth casting their votes in the upcoming legislative and presidential polls.

Tunisia’ parliamentary elections will be held on October 26 while the first round of presidential poll is scheduled for November 23.

However, not everyone is as excited about heading to the polls later this year. Those unwilling to vote often cite their dissatisfaction with the performance of the political class during the past three years, arguing that the 2011 elections ‘did not bring any change’.

In October 2011, Tunisians elected a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) tasked with drafting a new constitution after the ousting of dictator Zeine el Abidin Ben Ali. The Islamist party Ennahdha gained 40 per cent of the votes.

Like many, Nymeria wondered:

On June 24, Twitter user Papillon, who has around 13,000 followers, posted [fr] the following question:

Personne de ceux qui encouragent au vote ne peut répondre à la question pourtant simple: a quoi ça a servi de voter le 23/10 ?

None those of who are encouraging [others] to vote can answer this, yet very simple question: how was voting on 23 October [2011] useful?

Blogger Saber Arabasta, who has around 12,000 followers, answered [fr]:

@Papiillon: à connaitre l'équilibre des forces politiques dans le pays, à changer de gouvernement, à changer de président, à écrire une const

Knowing the balance of the political forces in the country, changing the government, changing the president, drafting a constitution

He added in another tweet [fr]:

@Papiillon à débattre des lois, à débattre du budget, à décider d'un processus élctoral, de justice transitionnelle, changer de diplomatie

Debating laws, debating a budget, deciding on an electoral process and transitional justice and changing diplomacy.

User Chikh Magon asked [fr]:

@Papiillon à quoi sert de boycotter les élections, je te retourne la question ?

I return the question to you: what would boycotting the elections be useful for?

On Facebook, Journalist and blogger Haythem El Mekki wrote [fr]:

Bon les pro boycott et abstentionnistes : J'aurais bien aimé vous suivre et vous soutenir, mais il faudra me dire ce que vous avez prévu concrètement et de façon pragmatique… Quel résultat espérez-vous en prônant le boycott ? Enfin mis à part le fait de nous priver des voix de ceux qui souhaitent un changement plus que quiconque… Je suis aussi insatisfait et remonté contre la classe politique que vous, voire plus, mais je ne vois que du nihilisme dans votre approche que je trouve destructrice et infantile… Pourriez-vous me convaincre du contraire ?

So, those who are in favor of boycotting and abstaining, I would have loved to follow and support you but you need to tell me what have you concretely and permanently planned…What is the result you wish to see by urging boycott? Apart from depriving us from the votes of those who wish to see a change more than anyone else…I am as unsatisfied by the political class as you, even more. But I only see nihilism in your approach which I find destructive and childish…Could you convince me of the opposite?

Bechir Bizertino commented [ar]:

قبل كل شي فسرلنا انت كيفاش بمشاركتك في الانتخابات لاختيار اي طرف من القذارة المفروضة علينا بش تغيير حاجة في البلاد … اما انا فمقاطع لانه صوتي لاي طرف حامج من الموجودين موش بش يصلح حتى شي وما عنده حتى قيمة بما انه الطبقة السياسية باكملها ما تسمع كان للسفراء الاجانب موش للشعب اللي وكلها لنيابته …. وبمقاطعتي فعلى الاقل رابح انه ما عطيتهمش اي شرعية ولم اوكلهم ولا يمكنهم ادعاء ذلك ….

First of all, you explain to us, how taking part in the elections to choose any of the dirty parties imposed on us will change anything in the country. For me, I am boycotting because my vote to any of the existent dirty parties is of no use and value since the entire political class only listens to foreign ambassadors and not the people who elect [them]…by boycotting, at least I'm not giving them any legitimacy and deputizing them so they cannot pretend [that I did]

Zenova Gamha Fehmi posted this comment [fr]:

A mon avis il faut aller voter, pour un parti ou un autre, dans cinq ans si on n'est toujours pas satisfaits on votera pour un autre et ainsi de suite, c le jeu.
Il faut aller voter, c un devoir envers ceux qui sont morts pour nous l'octroyer ce droit.
Ne vous attendez pas à un miracle suite aux élections, les tunisiens ont tendance à vouloir tout tout de suite ce qui relève de l'impossible!

In my opinion, it is an obligation to vote for any party. In five years’ time, if we are still unsatisfied, we can vote to a different party and so on, this is the game. Voting is an obligation towards those who died to grant us this right. Do not expect a miracle after the elections, Tunisians tend to want to have everything immediately, which is impossible

In the meantime, the country's independent electoral commission (ISIE) launched a campaign urging Tunisians to register before July 22, if they wish to cast their votes. Those who do not register will not be able to do so.

The campaign targets some 4 million eligible voters who did not register for the October 2011 constituent assembly election.

With a high abstention rate estimated at 50pc in 2011, the electoral commission and civil-society groups are concerned that this year's turnout rate will be lower in the face of a growing popular disappointment with political parties.


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