Tunisia civil society groups raise questions over referendum data | News

Tunis, Tunisia – More than a week later the Tunisians support a new constitution proposed by Chairman Kais Saied, civil society groups are asking election authorities to release raw voting data to see if the process is valid – and some are even asking for a recount. .

According to the Tunisian Independent Electoral Service (ISIE), about 2.93 million voters, out of 9.2 million registered, took part in the July 25 polls, with 92 percent of those participating voting. “Yes” vote.

The low voter turnout The 31% came amid a boycott campaign from the opposition, which said the new constitution could return Tunisia to a one-man regime, a charge Saied denies.

There is no set minimum participation level for the referendum, so Constitutionthis will change Tunisia from the current hybrid parliamentary democracy to a democracy in which the president has far-reaching powers, which will be passed.

While civil society observers did not contest the winning “Yes” vote, nor did they accuse ISIE of fraud, they did express concerns about the management of vote data. They wanted polling station data to be published in an accessible format and to expose serious flaws in some of the administration’s results published the day after the referendum, as revised by ISIE on August 2.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the “No” campaign and the political party Afek Tounes are demanding the full results be annulled, arguing that the referendum process was unconstitutional and that the “No” campaign had been blocked from organizing. organize election events.

Anti-corruption organization I Watch accused ISIE employees of “incompetence and lack of integrity”.

Slim Bouzid, of the independent vote-watching association Mourakiboun, said I Watch had requested a recount, but his organization had requested “detailed data in a spreadsheet so we could verify it.” in fact, is this a bug or something else.” Bouzid said, dodging determining what he was alluding to, when pressed by Al Jazeera.

But ISIE President, Farouk Bouasker, hit back at those who, he said, accused the authority of rigging and falsifying election results, pledging legal action against them.

Bouasker also said at a news conference on Tuesday that the three legal cases filed against ISIE were unrelated to the outcome. “This shows that the referendum result is correct,” he said in Tunis.

Complaints against ISIE will be heard on Friday.

Since the Tunisian constitution was written in 2014, the independent electoral body has successfully held three general elections and received praise from observers for running liberal and public polls. in an authoritative manner.

But in May, Saied replaced ISIE’s executive committee, giving the newly reformed body just two months to organize the referendum, which included recruiting and training 80,000 new polling station staff.

“We don’t believe that ISIE is a truly independent agency anymore,” I Watch executive office member Mouhoub Garoui told Al Jazeera.

Bouzid said the entire referendum process was questionable, including the processing of personal data without consent.

Before the vote, ISIE welcomed the registration of some 2.26 million new voters, but Bouzid said “the voluntary recruitment of new voters has failed due to lack of equipment and poor strategy, so so [ISIE] switch to automatic registration”.

According to Bouzid, the “ideal number of voters per polling station” to ensure error-free is 600. But prior to the referendum, the number of polling stations was cut from 14,700 to 11,762, resulting in up to 1,000 registered voters. for each centre, which Bouzid said may have led to an error in the counting of votes.

Meanwhile, political scientist Monica Marks, assistant professor of Trans-Arab Routes Studies at New York University Abu Dhabi, who interviewed all parties involved in the referendum process , also indicates that ISIE has not published voting data in file format. observers can access and analyze.

“We don’t have any independent, transparent evidence to verify the ISIE figures,” Marks said.

When contacted by Al Jazeera, ISIE confirmed that there were no errors in the counting of votes.

The referendum also took place with a smaller number of observers than in previous electoral processes. Bouzid said that in the past, ISIE would authorize about 15,000 independent observers – but this time only “6,000 observer certifications, of which half are accredited to Mourakiboun”.

Mrabti Said, an observer from the Chahed Observatory for Election Supervision, told Al Jazeera that he and his colleagues were denied entry to the polling stations because they were not properly certified. “ISIE did not purchase enough cards to print all the cards requested by international and independent observers,” he said.

Said, who has tracked every election since the 2011 revolution with Chahed, said he was shocked by the police overreach. “Police officers attacked one of our observers… [in the] suburb of Djebel Jelloud. [They] was arrested and taken to the police station there”.

Marks added: “We do not have and we will never have an exhaustive list of violations in this referendum, because observers are present in only a small fraction of the locations and because ISIE workers are indiscriminately recruited and trained.”

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