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In Tunisia, the unknown of the female vote

2019-09-09T16:10:38.916Z

Women are more likely than men to have registered on the electoral lists in 2019, but the extent of their participation remains uncertain.



Women pass posters of presidential candidates in the September 15 presidential election in Tunis, September 2, 2019. Zoubeir Souissi / REUTERS

Will they go to the polls? The participation of women is one of the issues of the presidential election in Tunisia, Sunday, September 15. They were more likely than men to register on electoral registers in 2019 (54% of new registrants). In 2014, one million of them went to vote for former President Beji Caid Essebsi who had seduced the female electorate. But while their voices may help turn the ball rolling, the latest outreach efforts on the ground attest to women's lack of interest in voting. Especially for practical questions.

Example in Rjim Maatoug, a village of more than 4,000 inhabitants in southern Tunisia. Nejia Ben Mbarek, 35, regrets being misinformed. "With the burden of the home, we have less time than men to really follow the debates or programs of candidates," she says. For those who, like her, live far from a polling center, the question of putting a ballot in the ballot box is very practical. "Some hitchhike, others carpool, but overall it's not easy, especially when we have the feeling that politicians have done nothing to improve our lives," says Nejia.

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The problem of transport is recurrent in isolated regions. Anouare Mnasrri, president of the League of Tunisian Electricians, an association that defends women's rights in politics, proposed to the Independent Higher Electoral Commission (ISIE) a mapping of the most vulnerable areas and a partnership with the Ministry of the Interior. transport to take the women on the day of the vote. "Many politicians take advantage of this handicap to offer buses or cars. As a result, women feel obliged to vote for the party or the person who gave them the means to do so , she describes. We would like to change that. "

Only two women presidential candidates

According to a study by the League, nearly 75% of young people and women did not want to vote in January 2019, and more than 60% of rural women were not aware of the municipal elections in 2018. At that time, ISIE recognized that nearly 300,000 rural women were not even registered as voters because they did not have national identity cards.

In addition to exclusion and geographical marginalization, lack of representation remains another barrier to voting. Only two women are among the twenty-six presidential candidates. They represent 14% of the heads of lists for the legislative ones but only 5% within the lists themselves. In the municipal elections of 2018, the absolute parity requirement had allowed the presence of 47% of women in municipal councils. But, for the legislative, the parity imperative is more flexible.

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"If we leave the discretion to political parties, we always have a stereotypical mentality that takes over," said Anouare Mnasrri. This year for the legislative, the district of Tataouine in southern Tunisia is the worst student with no woman topped the list. "The law is ultimately always a driving force for change to enforce women's rights," says Mnasrri. Many parties in the parties denounce political violence or lack of prerogatives. And even those who have reached important positions have had to win.

"Verbal or psychological abuse"

Hella Ben Youssef Ouerdani, 46, vice-president of the Tunisian party Ettakatol and head of the list for the legislative, has committed since the revolution to access decision-making positions in his party. "It is not enough to have women on the list or women in the city councils, women must also be part of the decisions. We see it in the ranking of the last Forum of Davos where Tunisia is in 119th place out of 142 in terms of equality between men and women, even if it is first in the Arab world, "she says.

"One is forced to suffer verbal or psychological violence when one is doing politics. We are moving forward by introducing minimum party quotas for example, but there is not yet a natural commitment in politics for women, "she adds. In response to this issue and at the request of the civil society, the ISIE has introduced the sanction towards the political violence in the electoral law and the violence of gender in the control and the observation of the elections. The Inspectors of the Instance will, for example, report in their minutes if the posters of the women candidates are more torn than those of the men, and the violent remarks towards the candidates.

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If the female electorate seems more divided than in 2014, one of the two candidates seems to be attracting more interest. Abir Moussi, president of the Free Destourian Party and former member of the RCD, Ben Ali's party, plays on the Bourguibist legacy and the defense of women's rights. A pre-campaign meeting in Tunis, dedicated to women, attracted activists and curious people of different social classes and generations. However, Abir Moussi remains ambivalent about women's rights. The anti-Ennahda candidate has several times claimed to be against the draft law on equality in inheritance in its current form, presented to Parliament by Béji Caïd Essebssi in February. "Even if, personally, I am for equality," she said.

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Lilia Blaise (Tunis, correspondence)

Source: lemonde

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