After the elections were regularly manipulated under the dictatorship, largely transparent elections have been taking place for the first time since 2011 – first the election to the Constituent Assembly in October 2011, then the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 (see below). The High Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE) is responsible for organizing the elections.
A new right to vote was drawn up for the elections to the Constituent Assembly. It is a proportional representation and also provides for a vertical parity list. This procedure was also used in 2014. Members of the police and the military were not allowed to vote up until and including the 2014 elections in Tunisia. According to computergees, they received the right to vote for the first time in the 2018 local elections. However, only a minority made use of it.
National and foreign observers such as the EU election observer mission confirm that the elections have been largely fair and free since the political upheaval. However, in their report they criticized, among other things, logistical problems that led to long queues in front of some polling stations and massive delays in the counting.
In January 2014, a new electoral commission was elected by the members of the constitutional assembly. It organized the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections and the 2018 local elections. While there were organizational and logistical problems in 2014, especially in the elections for Tunisians abroad, the process has become more professional overall. Despite internal disputes and the resignation of several members of the commission and two chairmen, the local elections in 2018 were held without major incidents. In its final report, however, the EU election observer emphasized that it was necessary to guarantee the political independence of the ISIE in order to preserve the credibility of the elections.
In Tunisia’s first free elections on October 23, 2011, the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party became the strongest party, winning 89 out of 217 seats, followed by the Congress for the Republic under the leadership of the human rights activist Moncef Marzouki with 29 seats, Aridha Shaabia with 26 and Ettakatol with 20 seats. Since the beginning of the meeting, however, there have been frequent withdrawals and transfers from the parliamentary groups, so that the balance of power has often shifted.
In the transitional period, the Constituent Assembly will provide a government that was elected from among the members of the Assembly and that will continue to carry out official business.
In the parliamentary elections on October 6, 2019, the traditional parties were punished and many independent candidates were elected, leading to further fragmentation of the parliament. The Muslim-conservative Ennahdha party remains the strongest party, but only has around a quarter of the 217 members of the new parliament. Since the first free elections in 2011, it has lost around two thirds of its votes in absolute terms.
The Nidaa Tounes party, which Beji Caid Essebsi founded in 2012 as a counterweight to Ennahda, fared no better. In the 2014 elections, the rally movement became the strongest force. But robbed of its raison d’etre by its coalition with the actual opponent Ennahdha, it disintegrated into its individual parts in the last legislative period.
Both former popular parties have lost votes to new right-wing parties – Nidaa Tounes to Abir Moussi’s PDL (Free Destour Party), Supporter of the former ruler Ben Ali, and Ennnahda to the Islamist-populist group Karama (Dignity). The second strongest force is the populist party Qalb Tounes (The Heart of Tunisia) founded in the summer by media mogul and presidential candidate Nabil Karoui. With the social democratic Courant Démocratique (democratic movement) and the pan-Arab nationalist Mouvement du peuple (movement of the people), precisely the two parties, according to the observer organization Al Bawsala (The Compass) with the most frequent in the last legislative period, have also clearly won Parliament were present, most of the parliamentary questions were asked and not, as many counterparts have repeatedly changed political groups. That has paid off for the parties, who can now hope for 15 and 21 seats respectively after three in the new legislative period. After lengthy negotiations and two attempts to form a government, the government of Elyes Fakhfakh was sworn in at the end of February 2020. The new head of government had to face a number of challenges. After successfully dealing with the corona crisis in spring 2020, he resigned in July after he was accused of taking unfair advantage in a public tender. He was ahead of a vote of confidence in parliament. President Saied instructed the incumbent Interior Minister Hichem Mchichi to form a new government by the end of August 2020, which was sworn in at the beginning of September despite the ongoing political crisis.
Kais Saïed was elected as the new president in October. On October 13, he prevailed in a runoff election with 72.72% of the votes cast against the media entrepreneur Nabil Karoui and took office on October 23. The sober 61-year-old, who does not belong to any party, is one of the country’s best-known constitutional experts. The retired law professor advocates a clear line against corruption and an amendment to the 2014 constitution towards a grassroots, decentralized model of government. Citizens should be able to send representatives to a central parliament in a multi-stage process and also be able to revoke them.
Due to his legal expertise, he has a certain leap of faith in the population, but is criticized by parts of the electorate for his conservative social positions. His clear electoral success came as a surprise, since Saïed had campaigned without any significant funding, without a party in the background and with the simplest of means. Younger voters in particular had voted for him.