On September 15, 2022, Tunisian President Kais Saied issued Decree No. 55 of 2022, Amending and Completing Law No. 16 of 2014 Concerning Elections and Referendums. The new law will be applied to the next parliamentary election, which is scheduled for December 2022. This election will be the first parliamentary election since the implementation of the new Tunisian Constitution in July 2022 and the first election since President Saied issued Presidential Decree No. 117 of September 2021, which placed the country in a state of emergency and paused the functions of government.
Major Provisions of the New Law
Voting and Running for Election
Decree No. 55 of 2022 grants every Tunisian citizen 18 years of age or older the right to register in the voter’s registry. (Decree No. 55 of 2022, new art. 5.) However, it also prohibits individuals convicted of a crime and members of the military and Internal Security Forces from voting. (New art. 6.)
The new law sets a number of conditions for eligibility to run in parliamentary elections: the individual must be a Tunisian citizen, born to one Tunisian parent, at least 23 years of age, and residing in the district where they are running. (New art. 19.) Further, it prevents certain individuals from running in parliamentary elections, including government members, heads of office, judges, and diplomats. These individuals cannot run for parliament until one year has passed after they have left their government position. (New art. 20.)
The decree prohibits spending government funds on campaigning. It requires that all campaign funding be private (new art. 75) and that the Independent High Authority for Elections set a ceiling on campaign and referendum expenditures (new art. 81). The law also bans foreign and undeclared donations to candidates running for parliament, and imposes on the recipient a fine of 10 times to 50 times the amount of the donation. Candidates who accept such donations are subject to being suspended from the election process, imprisoned for five years, and banned from running in any future elections. (New art. 163.)
New Election Process
New article 19 bis of Law No. 55 of 2022 requires candidates to run in only one electoral district, thus prohibiting them from running in multiple electoral districts as they could previously.
The new law divides the parliamentary electoral districts into 161 districts, including 10 districts outside of Tunisia. Candidates have the right to represent Tunisian citizens living abroad in those 10 districts. (New art. 106.)
Voters will be allowed to vote for only one candidate within their electoral district. (New art. 108.) Further, new articles 108 and 109 indicate that the election process is a two-stage system with two cycles of votes per electoral district. The number of cycles will depend on the number of candidates running in that specific district.
Reactions to the New Law
Those supporting the president welcomed the new law, arguing that it prevents individuals who have committed legal violations from running for parliament. It is this aspect of the new law, however, that many of its opponents find the most worrisome. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, because Saied in his recent crackdown on his political opponents has accused many of them of electoral crimes and of violating the law against publishing fake news or rumors, the new law thus “opens the door for Saied to prevent anyone who has criticized him from seeking office.”
Opponents of the new law also condemn it for weakening political parties by shifting the electoral system away from parties to one centered on individuals; imposing overly burdensome requirements for running for office; eliminating public financing of political campaigns to favor wealthier candidates, who do not need to rely on that funding; and removing quotas for women candidates and candidates under 35, thereby undermining previous gender- and age-parity gains.Prepared by Ali Ebshara, Law Library intern, under the supervision of George Sadek, Foreign Law Specialist
Law Library of Congress, October 14, 2022
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