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Tunisia Runoff Election: Calm and Orderly Election Day Caps Controversial Campaign Period

October 14, 2019

TUNIS, Tunisia — Today, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joint international election observation mission released its preliminary statement with findings and recommendations following Tunisia’s runoff presidential election. The delegation led by Maureen White, Member of the NDI Board of Directors; Scott Mastic, Vice President for Programs at IRI; and Les Campbell, NDI Middle East and North Africa Director, issued recommendations including: timely responses to election-related challenges by electoral authorities that are supported by evidence; review and amendment of certain electoral regulations that many stakeholders claim are onerous; measures to ensure the inclusion of a high number of effectively disenfranchised voters; and continuing support from the international community for key electoral bodies. In addition, the delegation urges victors of all rounds to move into the next phase of government formation and governance in the spirit of magnanimity and reconciliation.

IRI and NDI’s 23-member delegation deployed in electoral districts across Tunisia, joining 15 observers and analysts who have been deployed since mid-August. NDI and IRI also fielded joint election observation missions for Tunisia’s first-round presidential and parliamentary elections. 

“Tunisia’s runoff presidential election concludes a remarkable electoral period that included three national elections in four weeks and the country’s first live-televised presidential and parliamentary debates,” said White. “Election officials conducted the polls confidently and knowledgeably, and the day’s proceedings were calm and orderly.”

“A larger than anticipated number of Tunisians turned out at the polls to vote for two political outsiders, leading to the election of Kais Saied,” said Campbell. “It’s clear that the Tunisian people are eager for change. Tunisia’s elected leaders need to make democracy deliver for citizens and reestablish voters’ trust in government institutions.”

The arrest and detention on charges of money laundering and tax evasion of one of the presidential candidates, Nabil Karoui, and his inability to campaign freely, was cause for concern.

“The success of an election cannot be judged by Election Day alone,” said Mastic. “Although Nabil Karoui was released and appeared in a debate, the fact remains that his incarceration prevented him from freely seeking votes for most of the campaign period and prevented voters from fully knowing him and his platform.”

In the spirit of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation – to which IRI and NDI are parties – the IRI/NDI joint international election observation mission issued a preliminary statement on the general elections with a list of recommendations on how to strengthen the election process. The joint mission stresses that the statement is preliminary and recognizes that, ultimately, it is the people of Tunisia who will determine the credibility of these elections.

Click here to download the full report. The report is also available in Arabic.

View this press release in Arabic.

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The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. More information is available at www.ndi.org.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the International Republican Institute (IRI) advances freedom and democracy worldwide by helping political parties to become more responsive, strengthening transparent and accountable governance, and working to increase the role of marginalized groups in the political process – including women and youth. More information is available at www.iri.org.