Carter Center Report: New Parliamentarians Must Move Quickly to Strengthen Tunisia’s Democratic Institutions

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(En français)


TUNIS (Oct. 8, 2019) — In a preliminary statement released today, The Carter Center commended the Tunisian election administration for conducting a well-run parliamentary election and expressed concern about the low voter turnout and a perceived lack of public confidence in the institution of parliament to realize the goals of the 2011 revolution.

The 41 percent turnout – more than 20 percent lower than in 2014 – reflects the Tunisian people’s dissatisfaction with how little the previous parliament has accomplished. The parties and independents elected on Sunday must put aside their differences and move quickly to consolidate Tunisia’s new democratic institutions, improve the economy, and renew citizens’ faith in the positive potential of the country’s democratic transition. 

The Carter Center’s 90-plus observation mission was led by Tana de Zulueta, a former Italian parliamentarian, and Karen AbuZayd, a commissioner on the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. The observer team, which included citizens from more than 30 countries, visited 392 polling stations and all 27 tally centers in Tunisia on election day. Observers reported only minor irregularities in a limited number of the polling stations they visited.

Today's statement from The Carter Center provides a preliminary assessment, the key findings of which are outlined below. Several important aspects of the electoral process have yet to be completed, including tabulation, announcement of final results, and the resolution of any complaints or challenges. AS A RESULT, THIS STATEMENT DOES NOT REPRESENT THE CENTER’S ASSESSMENT OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AS A WHOLE, BUT RATHER A PARTIAL PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF THOSE PHASES THAT ARE COMPLETED. The Center will provide further assessments once the electoral process is concluded.  

Key Conclusions

- Pre-election period: Many interlocutors informed Carter Center observers that the parliamentary campaign was overshadowed by the continued detention of Karoui and the effect his detention would have on the second round of the presidential election. The media focused almost exclusively on this topic and any possible challenge to the results based on the denial of his equal opportunity to campaign, making it difficult for parliamentary candidates to get their messages out to voters.

- Legal framework: As in the presidential election, campaign provisions, including those on the use of advertising and posters and on campaign-finance ceilings are restrictive and difficult for candidates to respect.

- Election administration: The ISIE failed to communicate effectively with the public about key electoral issues or to publish relevant information on its website. After the presidential election, the ISIE conducted a two-day assessment. Based on information from the Independent Regional Electoral Authorities (IRIEs), it decided to address shortcomings in the training of staff on an application that tallies results automatically on the tabulation-center level and in the routes that the military used to collect and deliver election material to the : centers. This improved the tabulation process.

- Candidate registration: Candidate registration for the parliamentary election was conducted by the IRIEs from July 22 – 29. IRIE staff were well-prepared for this process, and all stakeholders praised their professionalism and hard work. The ISIE announced the final number of lists on Aug. 31, after legal challenges were resolved. A total of 1,506 candidate lists, including 1,341 in country and 165 abroad, were accepted.

- Campaign environment: In the aftermath of the first round of the presidential election, most established political parties were slow to begin their campaign for the legislative elections as they assessed their campaign strategies, while independent lists were quick to campaign to take advantage of the anti-establishment momentum. Carter Center’s long-term observers reported that most parties decided to run low-key campaigns, handing out leaflets and conducting door-to-door activities.

- Campaign finance: Although campaign-finance ceilings for the parliamentary election have been raised since 2014, many stakeholders say they are too low to conduct an effective campaign. Ceilings range from a low of US$11,550 in Tozeur to a high US$34,616 in Sousse.

- Electoral dispute resolution: The courts of first instance did not allow Carter Center observers to observe fully the election dispute-resolution process in the majority of cases on the constituency level. Despite several official written requests, observers were not given information about electoral disputes, allowed to attend public hearings, or obtain copies of judgments.

- Social media monitoring: The Carter Center’s monitoring of the Facebook pages of parties or independent lists as well as their supportive pages, revealed that the majority used social media as a platform to introduce their candidates, announce campaign events, or to call on voters to vote, rather than as a tool to engage with voters on the issues. Smear campaigns and inflammatory language were observed on several supportive pages of candidates for both the presidential and parliamentary elections, though the pages’ affiliations were unclear. The majority of parties monitored by The Carter Center breached the silence period by running paid ads on party pages or on supportive pages on Saturday and election day.


The Carter Center has had a presence in Tunisia since 2011. It observed the 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections and the 2014 presidential and legislative elections, as well as the constitution-making process that culminated in the adoption of the constitution in January 2014.

For these elections, The Carter Center deployed a core team in May 2019. In mid-July, the Center – in collaboration with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa – deployed 16 long- term observers. The core team and long-term observers represent 18 different countries.

The Center will remain in Tunisia to observe the final tabulation process and the resolution of electoral complaints. It also will observe the presidential runoff election on Oct. 13. The objectives of the Center’s observation mission are to provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the electoral process, promote an inclusive process for all Tunisians, and demonstrate support for its democratic transition.

The Carter Center assesses Tunisia’s electoral process against the Tunisian constitution, the domestic electoral legal framework, and obligations derived from international treaties and international election standards. The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.

The Center wishes to thank Tunisian officials, political party members, civil society members, individuals, and representatives of the international community who have generously offered their time and energy to facilitate the Center’s efforts to observe the election process.


Rapport du Centre Carter : les nouveaux représentants du peuple doivent agir rapidement pour renforcer les institutions démocratiques tunisiennes

Déclaration préliminaire du Centre Carter sur les élections législatives en Tunisie

تقرير مركز كارتر: على البرلمانيين الجدد اتّخاذ خطوات سريعة لتعزيز المؤسسات الديمقراطية في تونس

بيان مركز كارتر األ ّولي حول االنتخابات التّشريعيّة في تونس

Soyia Ellison,,
Don Bisson +216 58 608 980 or

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.