[Source: Analysis by Monia Ben Hamadi for Le Quotidien]
One potential voter in three is now registered for the October 23rd Election. If it is possible to vote with only a national identity card, as announced last Wednesday by the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE), then the number of registered voters is now simply a measure of interest in the elections.
If this is the case, then we can worry for the future of democracy in our country. Our citizens display an increasing disinterest in politics. According to ISIE, young people and women have seen the lowest rates of registration.
Tunisian society is still mostly a patriarchal society, where men are more concerned with issues outside the home. It can be difficult for women to go themselves to a registration center. Furthermore, we see less interest in women’s political issues. Women have not had to fight for their rights, because the Personal Status Code has handed it to them. We hope that they do not wait until those rights are in jeopardy before starting to defend them.
Disaffection among the young comes from other reasons. Though they began the revolution, they now refuse to get involved. Young people feel a crisis in confidence concerning the current political players, whom they accuse of collaborating with the old regime, blurring or hiding their political ambitions, making obsolete or superficial speeches and offering programs based on superficial clichés. No political personality has impressed the young. Add to this scene an ambient fear of exterior control by the West, Israel, the military, or ex-RCD members now returning to the country, and the young of Tunisia choose to withdraw from what they think is a false democracy. They are not fooled, they say, and do not want to participate in the masquerade.
“There is still work to be done in terms of communication,” said Ghazi Ghraibi, member of ISIE. “Beyond the low registration, there are citizens who, while registering, think they are voting!”
A large majority of the population does not seem to want to rush to exercise their civic rights. Of course, the period of registration may be poorly chosen. Between the summer and the month of Ramadan, Tunisians have other priorities. Trying to find the right menu for the breaking of the fast is often more important than democracy. One can smell and taste a well-oiled brik, but democracy has the misfortune of being an abstract concept. We prefer music and television to electoral issues.
However, this preference for daily distractions over the future of the country is an unfair generalization of Tunisian citizens, who suffer greatly from a lack of information that the media is failing to fill. Why register? Who can I vote for? What is a constitutional assembly? What will their powers be once elected? These questions and many others find no answer, especially in audiovisual media. The search for an audience, especially at this time, is taking precedence.
After gaining a sufficient understanding of the electoral issues, Tunisians face a new challenge: that of choice. It is important to remember that the campaign period has not started, and people must register without knowing who they will vote for. However, the numerous political parties and political actors contributes to voter disaffection. Hundreds of parties, programs, and speeches that all look alike, a gap between voter expectations and political proposals, and electoral polemics have all created a thick fog, not easily dispelled.