Tunisia: The new face of local elections in the age of democracy

May 6th, 2018, was a remarkable date to remember by all Tunisians, and the world. in Tunisia, 7,212 municipal councilors were elected in the 350 municipalities in the country. The “big winner” of the vote is abstention, which stands at 64%. On the side of political parties, the two parties that dominate Tunisian life arrive unsurprisingly in the lead, Ennahdha, moderate islamist party, with 29% of the vote and the ruling party Nidaa Tounes 21% (respectively 30% and 22% of seats). But the surprise comes from the score of independent lists, which confused all political parties. Independents won 33% of the seats.

Independent lists were dubbed by political parties but presented themselves without any label, perhaps to better seduce those who refused to vote for a party after a long and troubling democratic transition. Their proportion is not known for the moment. The alliances for the election of mayors should allow to see more clearly.

Other than party activists, there are also real independents convinced by the impact they would have on their communities. The latter have really created the surprise, either at Ariana or Marsa in the suburbs of Tunis or even in parts of the south of the country. Thus at Ariana, near Tunis, the list conducted by law professor Fadhel Moussa won the majority of votes. He gathered 15 seats, more than Nidaa Tounes and Ennahdha combined. In these constituencies, it will be impossible for these two parties to apply their usual alliance strategy.

These lists are embodied by figures or activists of civil society or the democratic movement. We also find students, young entrepreneurs … All those who do not recognize themselves in a party and who let themselves be tempted by the exercise of a local democracy. People who are willing to act locally, where the politicians in power have failed to change the lives of Tunisians in recent years and have visibly seduced in this period of disavowal of traditional political formations.

These lists do not represent a monolithic block, but have a common point.

People knew that some pseudo-independents were close to Nida Tounes or Ennahdha. But in any case they have chosen not to give their voice explicitly to major parties, she says.

But beware, the vote in favor of independent lists is not just a vote by default. Thus in some municipalities, truly independent lists, carrying unifying projects, have succeeded in mobilizing voters. These lists could allow a leveling up, and lead by example throughout their term.

We must now wait for the election of mayors to see how many town halls these citizens alternatives manage to lead. City councilors have until July to elect their mayors.