Carter Center Calls for Increased Transparency in Electoral Process, Praises Smooth Transition After Death of President

Read the pre-election statement

(En français)


TUNIS (Sept. 9, 2019) — The Carter Center today released a pre-election statement offering an assessment of the pre-election period for Tunisia’s 2019 elections, which was marked by the death of President Beji Caïd Essebsi and the arrest of businessman and presidential candidate, Nabil Karoui. The statement looks at amendments to the electoral law as well as at voter registration and candidate nominations. It also offers preliminary recommendations to electoral stakeholders.

The Carter Center’s election mission began in May and includes a core team and 16 long-term observers, who will be joined on Sept. 10 by Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and Tana de Zulueta, a journalist and former member of the Italian parliament. Together, they will lead a delegation of over 50 short-term observers. The Carter Center and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) are collaborating on the deployment of observers for the 2019 Tunisian elections.

The Center commends Tunisia’s electoral authorities, civil society organizations, and political parties for their swift and efficient efforts to prepare for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, especially considering the need to advance the date of the presidential election because of the untimely death of President Caïd Essebsi. The Center calls on Tunisian institutions involved in the electoral process to increase the transparency of their decision-making so that the public is fully informed of the reasons for judicial and administrative decisions and to increase public trust that the elections are being conducted in compliance with international standards and domestic law. As the election draws closer, it is even more important that the Independent High Authority for Elections (known by its French acronym, the ISIE) increase its communication efforts.

The lack of information offered by the ISIE for rejecting individual presidential candidates, along with the courts’ failure to publish the reason for its decisions, led to speculation that they were driven by considerations other than strict compliance with the law.

The transition after the death of the president went smoothly despite the lack of a Constitutional Court, avoiding a potential constitutional crisis. The president’s death forced the ISIE to move the date of the presidential election forward. With the cooperation of parliament, amendments to the electoral law were passed to accommodate the new date.

In a positive step, the ISIE’s vigorous voter-registration campaign for these elections resulted in the registration of 1,455,898 new voters, 63 percent of whom are women or young voters.

The Center commends the ISIE and the High Authority for Audiovisual Communications for their efforts to encourage the media to be particularly vigilant in covering the activities of candidates who are also government officials or ministers. In addition, the ISIE has reinforced its campaign monitoring and warned government officials not to use state resources for any campaign activity. 

The detention of presidential candidate Nabil Karoui one week before the start of the campaign based on an investigation that has been ongoing since 2017 has added to the speculation that the electoral process is being influenced by considerations other than strict compliance with the rule of law. This is especially true because before Caid Essebsi’s death, parliament passed amendments that appeared to target Karoui by effectively barring owners of media outlets from running for office. (The laws never took effect because the president didn’t promulgate them before his death.) While Karoui will remain on the ballot, he is at a disadvantage because he is not be able to campaign while in detention. In addition, it is unclear how his detention will affect the status of his participation in the rest of the electoral process.

The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. The Carter Center, as an independent observer organization, will immediately inform Tunisia’s authorities and the Tunisian people of its findings through the release of a preliminary statement of findings and conclusions shortly after election day, followed by a final comprehensive report in the months following the polls.


مركز كارتر يدعو إلى مزيد من الشّفافية في العمليّة الانتخابيّة ويُشيد بالانتقال السّلس للسّلطة بعد وفاة الرّئيس

بيان كارتر السّابق للانتخابات حول العملية الانتخابية لسنة 2019 في تونس

Le Carter Center appelle à plus de transparence dans le processus électoral et fait l'éloge de la transition constitutionnelle souple qui a eu après le décès du Président 

Déclaration préélectorale du Centre Carter sur le processus électoral en Tunisie (PDF)


Contact: Soyia Ellison, associate communications director,
Don Bisson, mission director,


Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.