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Tunisia Elects President in Successful and Transparent Electoral Process

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,
In Tunisia, Don Bisson +216 21 76 82 08 or

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Early Carter Center observer reports indicate that Tunisia has successfully completed its first democratic election cycle under the new constitution with Dec. 21's final round of the presidential election. The country's transition from an authoritarian regime, ousted in a largely peaceful revolution on Jan. 14, 2011, to transparent elections and permanent democratic institutions represents the brightest hope in the region for a successful and peaceful transition following the Arab revolutions. Once the electoral process is finalized, Tunisia's leaders should work to consolidate the country's achievements and fulfill the promise of the revolution by enshrining the tenets of its new constitution in domestic legislation and tackling pressing economic and social concerns.

"Tunisia symbolizes what can be accomplished when citizens, political parties, civil society, and institutions work together to achieve compromise and move a country forward on the path to democracy," said Ambassador Audrey Glover, co-leader of the Carter Center delegation.

"We congratulate the Tunisian people for this remarkable accomplishment. The Arab Spring was born in Tunisia, nurtured here, and has now come to maturity here," said former Prime Minister of Yemen Abdulkarim al-Eryani, co-leader of the Carter Center observation mission.

The new president and government should move quickly to address critical issues facing the country, including high youth unemployment, poor economic growth, and security concerns arising from its increasingly unstable neighborhood. While the presidential campaign was at times tense and acrimonious following the announcement of final results, the winner must seek to heal the regional divides reflected in the results of both the legislative and presidential elections. The Tunisian people overcame significant challenges to achieve its democratic milestones, largely thanks to their willingness to seek compromise and unity. The new president should seek to continue these efforts and to promote an inclusive approach to governing.

After the polls closed, violence was reported in the city of El Hamma in the Gabes governorate. Demonstrators threatened polling staff and citizen observers. Police responded to calls for assistance. According to sources at the Ministry of the Interior, police and security reinforcements confronted the protesters, who responded violently. Several people have been injured.

The electoral process will conclude with the tabulation of results, the resolution of any complaints, and the announcement of final results by the ISIE. The Carter Center's core team and long-term observers will continue to assess post-electoral developments through the end of the process. Although the process is ongoing, it appears that the ISIE has organized these elections successfully and conducted an inclusive process within a tight time frame.

Key conclusions of the Carter Center observation mission include:

  • Election Administration: We commend the High Independent Authority for the Elections (ISIE) for its efforts to continually improve the administration of the election and ensure the full neutrality and impartiality of its staff. The ISIE improved the process between the rounds by facilitating voting by disabled voters, speeding up the transfer of sensitive materials from the polling centers to the collecting centers, and introducing the use of a ruler at the tabulation level to avoid transcription errors. The ISIE, however, took unduly restrictive steps to protect the voters' choice from external influence when instructing polling center presidents to limit the number of observers and candidate agents per polling station and polling center and to prohibit candidate representatives from standing in the courtyards of polling centers on election day. As the ISIE did not communicate the instruction in a clear way, it created confusion among observers and poll workers responsible for its enforcement. The ISIE should consider other means to protect voters from external influence in around the polling stations that would not restrict the rights of citizen observers, and endeavor to ensure that its instructions are uniformly applied.
  • Voter education: As in the previous elections, the ISIE failed to implement a strong voter education campaign. Instead of making an effort to target voters who did not turn out in the first round, the ISIE adapted existing campaign tools. The electoral authorities launched their voter education campaign for the runoff only after the announcement of final results from the first round. A few civil society organizations conducted a campaign encouraging youth to participate in the second round. The ISIE should redouble its efforts in future elections to educate the voters about the procedures to be followed on election day.
  • Voting process: Carter Center observers found that polling staff implemented the overwhelming majority of procedures effectively in all phases of the voting process. As in the first round, the most frequent procedural irregularity observed during polling was the failure of poll workers to provide voter instruction. These shortcomings did not appear to affect the ability of voters to cast their ballots. The overall assessment of the election environment and process during the closing was very good or reasonable in nearly all of the locations observed; closing procedures were followed in 23 of 26 observations. In isolated cases, the minutes of the closing procedures were not adequately completed. Counting procedures were assessed as very good or reasonable in 22 of 25 observed polling stations. Results protocols were posted outside the polling station as required in the 24 locations observed. Carter Center observers visited 20 collection offices and assessed that so far it has been an efficient and orderly process. The overwhelming majority of observers reported that the ISIE had provided far better access to the proceedings than in the previous round and that they were able to make meaningful observations of all parts of the process. TCC observers rated the implementation of procedures positively for all centers visited. In 19 out of 20 collection offices visited, tabulation staff was cooperative, provided information, and answered questions. Candidate agents were present and actively participated in the process in all but three of the stations visited by the observers. The tabulation process is still ongoing.
  • Participation of observers and candidate representatives: As in the first round, civil society organizations and political parties both accredited a large number of observers. The finalist presidential candidates deployed a greater number of agents in the second round. Of the 88,000 observers accredited, 67 percent were candidate representatives. Candidate agents were present in all but 10 of the 282 polling stations visited during polling. Citizen observers were not present in 43 percent of observed stations during polling. While electoral authorities generally supported the role of citizen observers and candidate representatives, and facilitated their access to polling stations, the ISIE's last-minute directive prohibiting them from standing in the courtyards of polling centers unduly restricted their observation.
  • Campaign environment: The campaign environment was marked by polarizing rhetoric leading to increased tension between the candidates and their supporters. While the campaign environment did not appear to affect the overall campaign of either candidate, isolated instances impacted individual events. The ISIE, CSOs, the HAICA, the SNJT, and the National Dialogue intervened and called on both candidates to moderate their rhetoric. Although no public debate took place, national TV stations broadcast an interview with each candidate in the final week of the election. The two candidates conducted very different campaigns. Moncef Marzouki organized large public rallies across the country and presented himself as the rampart against the return of the old regime. Beji Caid Essebsi organized smaller, intimate gatherings around Tunis with targeted groups of voters and selected media, portraying himself as a unifier of all Tunisians.
  • Campaign finance: The state provided a limited amount of public funding to the presidential candidates in the second round, totaling TND 52,851 (USD 28,000). Several stakeholders commented that this amount was too low to conduct a meaningful and effective nationwide campaign. Nineteen candidates in the first round failed to win three percent of the votes and are now required to return the public funds they received. Campaign finance regulations, including the low ceilings, should be reviewed as part of the consolidation of all election legislation into one code.
  • Electoral dispute resolution: Marzouki submitted eight challenges to the results of the first round of the presidential elections. The administration court heard the cases in an efficient and speedy process, conducting hearings on Dec. 1 and issuing decisions the same day. The court rejected seven of the eight complaints on procedural grounds. The remaining complaint was examined on its merits and rejected. The court reasoned that because presidential elections are carried out in one nationwide constituency, only challenges to the entire results are admissible. Further, even if his challenge had been successful, it would not have changed the result. The difference in votes between the two candidates was almost 200,000, well above the maximum number of votes affected by the complaint. Marzouki filed appeals against the decisions of the tribunal to the plenary assembly of the court, which were rejected on Dec. 7.
  • Security: The polls were conducted without serious security incidents that disrupted the electoral process. For security reasons, 124 polling centers in western Tunisia had shortened opening hours. Military operations were ongoing in the militarized zone west of Kasserine on election day. According to Carter Center observer reports, the presence of security officials at polling centers did not appear intimidating and the security provided was properly managed in those centers observed.

The elections demonstrate that Tunisia is on the right path to a democratic society. The new president, parliamentarians, and future government must now fulfill the promise of the revolution and the expectations raised by the elections. The newly elected Assembly of the Representatives of the People must work to enshrine the tenets of the new constitution in domestic legislation. Tunisia's legal framework, much of which dates to the former regime, must be revised to reflect the human rights principles contained in the constitution. The assembly must also create the permanent institutions outlined in the constitution, including the Constitutional Court and High Judicial Council, within the timeframes specified, and draft an electoral law to govern the conduct of municipal polls anticipated in 2015. These steps will help Tunisia consolidate its democratic gains.

The Carter Center recognizes the considerable achievements of the National Constituent Assembly to adopt the legal framework governing the conduct of the parliamentary and presidential elections, and to create the ISIE as a permanent electoral body. To improve future electoral processes, the ISIE and key electoral actors should take stock of the lessons learned in the electoral process, including consultations at the regional level. Taking into consideration their recommendations, the newly elected assembly should undertake a thorough review of electoral legislation and regulations. The adoption of a new electoral code would provide the assembly an opportunity to incorporate into organic law guarantees for the equality of the vote.

The ARP should also move quickly to consider legislation governing municipal polls, and any related processes, including restructuring the voter registry. Municipal polls, the results of which are often considered to have a significant day-to-day impact on citizens' lives, have not been held since before the revolution. Electoral actors should also conduct a comprehensive review of campaign finance and campaign rules. The regulations and expenditure ceilings should be reviewed with a goal of making them more realistic so as to enable candidates to conduct an effective campaign.

As a permanent electoral body, the ISIE should devise a clear communications strategy and expand its efforts to communicate with citizens and electoral stakeholders. While the Carter Center expresses its appreciation for the collaboration and openness of ISIE officials, the ISIE should improve the transparency of its internal operations, particularly its decision-making processes. It also should ameliorate its voter education efforts. Voter registration among youth, and their participation in the elections as voters, appeared low. This dynamic suggests that those at the forefront of the revolution risk being marginalized in the political and civil affairs of their country.

Background: The Carter Center was accredited by the ISIE to observe the elections and deployed over 60 observers who visited 282 unique polling stations as well as 20 tabulation centers in Tunisia. The mission was co-led by Ambassador Audrey Glover, a respected international lawyer and human rights defender from the United Kingdom, and former Prime Minister of Yemen Abdulkarim al-Eryani. More than 19 nationalities were represented on the observation mission.

The Center has had a presence in Tunisia since 2011 and observed both the 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections as well as the constitution-making process that culminated in the adoption of the constitution in January 2014. The electoral observation mission was launched in June 2014 with the deployment of 10 long-term observers across the country and a core team of technical experts based in Tunis. The electoral process will conclude with the tabulation of results, the resolution of electoral complaints, and the announcement of final results by the ISIE. The Carter Center's core team and long-term observers will continue to assess post-electoral developments through the end of the process.

The objectives of the Center's observation mission in Tunisia 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 electoral process is assessed against the Tunisian legal framework, as well as Tunisia's international obligations for genuine democratic elections.

The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the declaration of principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted in the United Nations in 2005 and is currently endorsed by 49 organizations.

To follow the news and activities of the Carter Center's Tunisia field office, like us on


"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.


La Tunisie élit son Président suite à un processus électoral réussi et transparent

تونس تنتخب رئيسا في عملية انتخابية ناجحة و شفافة

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