Tunis/Tunisia — "The May 6 municipal elections were credible in spite of the low turnout on the part of youth in particular and some technical weaknesses," said on Tuesday Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Tunisia and Vice-President of the European Parliament.
At a press conference in Tunis, Castaldo reported that during the ballot day, the 124 observers from the EU EOM had visited 537 polling stations in 221 municipalities across the country to observe the vote and counting.
"The ballot was generally calm, in spite of some delays and incidents caused by logistical failures," he added, specifying that in almost every polling station observed, the procedures had been properly applied and the counting had been conducted in a transparent and most often consensual way.
He considered that the electoral campaign had been pluralist but barely visible in the public space. "The control of the campaign by the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) staff proved excessively rigid in places."
The official pointed out that "the relatively low ceiling of the campaign expenses has reduced the candidates' activities."
In addition, media coverage of the election campaign had been generally balanced but poor, testifying to the complexity of the airtime distribution rule and the campaign's discretion.
Castaldo said that according to figures issued in February 2018, a total of 5,369,843 voters had been registered for the municipal poll, 48% of whom are women. The estimates made by the mission show, according to the same source, a significant under-registration of youth aged between 18 and 21, less than a quarter of them are registered on voters' lists.
Fabio Massimo Castaldo, however, commended the significant increase (13%) of women's participation in the elections compared to 2014, indicating that over 30% of front runners are women in 2018 and 52% of the candidates are women under 35 years old.
Taking the floor, Head of the European Parliament delegation Santiago Fisas Ayxela underlined that the adoption of the code of Local Authorities by the House of People's Representatives (HPR) "is a source of great satisfaction."
"These municipal elections are an opportunity, especially for the authorities and political parties, to draw a number of political as well as legal and regulatory lessons," he said, adding that the European Parliament will support the HPR in its mission.
Santiago Fisas Ayxela voiced satisfaction at the smooth conduct of the 1st local elections since 2011. "They are an important and crucial step in the democratic transition in Tunisia," he estimated.
Besides, he described the democratic transition experience in Tunisia as a model for the whole region and the world. The measures taken to promote horizontal and vertical parity and the representation of youth and persons with disabilities are genuinely bold and could inspire many countries around the world, he indicated.
Fisas Ayxela also pointed out that the ISIE and HAICA are still young institutions whose independence vis-à-vis the parties must be consolidated.
This preliminary statement of the EU EOM will be followed by a final declaration with recommendations in about two months.