Opinion polls opened in a Tunisian vote which was boycotted by the opposition

Tunisian President Kais Saied arrives to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured) during the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C, US, December 14, 2022. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

TUNIS, December 17 (Reuters) - Voting opened Saturday in Tunisian parliamentary elections that will tighten President Kais Saied's grip on power, limiting what his opponents have criticized as a march toward one-man rule in a country that toppled the dictatorship in 2011.

Taking place 12 years the day after greengrocer Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the protests that sparked the Arab Spring, the vote was boycotted by the political party that accused Saied of staging a coup.

Nejib Chebbi, head of an anti-Saied coalition that includes Ennahda, called the election a "stillborn joke".

Saied closed down the previous parliament last year, surrounded the legislature in tanks and assumed near-total authority.

Voting appears to generate little interest among a population jaded by political dysfunction and struggling with economic hardship.

Voting is scheduled to take place from 08.00-18.00. (0700 GMT-1700 GMT).

Saied, a former law lecturer who was politically independent when he was elected president in 2019, described the election as part of a roadmap to end the chaos and corruption that he said engulfed Tunisia under the previous system.

His opponents including the Islamic party Ennahda have meanwhile accused him of staging a coup, and have rejected the vote along with all other presidential moves since last summer, when he dissolved parliament and began ruling by decree.

The election took place against the backdrop of a poverty-stricken economic crisis, leading many to attempt the perilous journey to Europe on smugglers' boats.

In the absence of the main party, a total of 1,058 candidates - only 120 of them women - are running for 161 seats.

For 10 of these - seven in Tunisia and three decided by expatriate voters - there is only one candidate. The other seven seats decided by expatriate voters had no candidates at all. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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