Tunisians vote in parliamentary elections – with 1,500 lists to choose from
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Tunisians head to the polls Sunday for the third parliamentary polls of a successful but hectic transition to democracy since the North African country's 2011 revolution.
"I wont vote," said one Tunisian, a teacher named Faouzia. "I no longer trust the political class. I dont trust any of them. And they dont have a clear programme," she continued.
Polling stations opened for the seven-million electorate at 8am local time and closed 12 hours later, with preliminary official results scheduled for Wednesday, although exit polls will be released from late Sunday.
The vote comes two weeks after the first round of a presidential election that swept aside traditional political parties in favour of independent candidates, a trend likely to be repeated in the ballot for MPs.
“Disillusion with the political establishment is the dominant feeling,” says FRANCE 24s Armen Georgian, reporting from Tunis. “That raises the prospect of a low turnout following the dramatic slump in voter participation in the first round of the presidential election.”
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 decimated by infighting.
Informal surveys, in the absence of opinion polls, predict Ennahdha will lose ground to the new Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party of jailed business tycoon Nabil Karoui, who has reached an October 13 two-way runoff in Tunisia's presidential contest.
The sidelining of the ruling political class in the first round on September 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 election.
Interim president Mohammed Ennaceur – filling in since the death of Beji Caid Essebsi in July brought forward the vote for head of state – warned Friday that Karoui's detention could have "serious and dangerous repercussions on the electoral process".
While the presidential race may 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.
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