The results of the referendum on the new Constitution in Tunisia announced by the Independent High Authority for Elections (Isie) have, since July 26, been the subject of all doubts. In question: figures that do not agree with the reality observed on the ground but also a series of overruns, which the authority does not seem to make much of but which discredit the process and the results. Suspicions reinforced by the fact that all the current members of Isie were appointed in May by the president.
Tunisia: sham victory for Kaïs Saïed’s constitutional project
- Difficult appeals
“Go to the courts”, launches the president of Isie, Farouk Bouasker, in the face of criticism and doubts about the veracity of the results of the referendum. But the decree organizing the referendum reduces the possibility of appeal. Only the lists of natural or legal persons who have been approved by the Isie to participate in the referendum campaign can thus introduce appeals. The NGO I Watch, an anti-corruption observatory, launched the appeal procedure with the administrative court through a person who empowerment de l’Isie.
- A text not found
The organization of the referendum provided that the vote would be taken on the draft Constitution as a whole and that it would be made available in advance, and in its entirety, to the electorate. The first text, published in the Official Journal on June 30, was amended but it was difficult to find a version of the new fundamental law that incorporated these changes, which do not only relate to typo corrections. As a result, many voted without having read the entire project.
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- Use of state resources
The “yes” to the referendum clearly benefited from the provision of State resources. The sources of funding for the posters, stickers and flags are unknown, but the public has had plenty of time to note that the supporters of the presidential project were overrepresented in the public media and that administrative cars were used for the campaign. Human resources have also been put to use, with supporters of President Kaïs Saïed’s project abandoning their mission to campaign, such as Ezzeddine Chelbi, governor of Ben Arous. Contrary to a principle of neutrality, agents from certain departments in contact with the general public mobilized to convince users to vote “yes”.
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- Kaïs Saïed and electoral silence
On the eve of the referendum, on the evening of July 24, huge posters calling for a “yes” vote appeared in certain urban centers. However, for more than twelve hours, electoral silence was in order. Among the first voters at the office of his district of Ennasr, Kaïs Saïed in turn violated the electoral silence by making a statement broadcast directly by the public channel El Watanya 1. But for the spokesman of Isie, Mohamed Tlili Mansri, the offender, in this case, is the media and not the president.
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- Overvaluation of Isie
From the first estimates, the Isie announces a level of participation inconsistent with the testimonies of polling stations that are not very frequented, even empty for some. She first indicated 25% participation in the closing of the offices at 10 p.m., then 27.5% overnight and finally 30.5% the next day, when the preliminary results were presented. A difference that Isie explains in particular by the heat, which forced a majority of voters to go to the polling stations on a reduced time slot. Isie thus explains that more than 500,000 voters throughout the national territory went to the polls between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. A substantial figure, which does not correspond to observations in the field.
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Some of the tables showing the distribution of votes in the offices contain gross errors. in Tozeur, for example, the number of voters exceeds the number of registered voters. But Isie assures that it is the regional authorities that have reported erroneous figures. As of July 29, several executives of the national authority were dismissed.
- What about the referendum?
The final results will be announced at the end of August, but the NGO I Watch is already demanding a recount of the ballots without the participation of Isie. President Kaïs Saïed would lean more towards the organization of a new vote, but he would thus harm his own image by implicitly acknowledging the fraud which aimed to have his draft constitution adopted. “If these results are confirmed, it is a shame. If we vote again, it’s also a shame. A real politician, to ensure a plebiscite, would decide to postpone the referendum process, ”said a former constituent on the left.
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Tunisians hold their breath awaiting the outcome of this confused and extremely tense situation. The pressures are all the greater as the low turnout weakens the legitimacy of the new Constitution. Diplomatic circles reserve their judgement. Mélanie Joly, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, weighs Canada’s participation in the Francophonie Summit in Djerba scheduled for November 2022 and specifies that it “must take place in a country that embodies, in word and deed, the principles of the Bamako declaration on the assessment of the practices of democracy, human rights
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