New electoral changes, including the end of public campaign funding, will make it difficult for women to run for office, critics say.
A new law introduced by the government of Tunisian President Kais Saied in September has “eliminated the principle of gender parity” in elected assemblies, warned the American group Human Rights Watch.
The law passed on September 15 requires candidates to obtain 400 signatures from registered voters in their constituencies.
“The new law removes gender parity provisions from a previous electoral law that sought to ensure equal representation between men and women in Tunisia’s elected assemblies, although Tunisia’s new constitution forbids explicitly this principle,” said Salsabil Chellali, Tunisian director of HRW, on Wednesday.
“Ensuring gender parity in elected assemblies was one of the major achievements for women’s rights after the 2011 Tunisian revolution,” she added.
Additionally, the law prohibits election candidates from having their political campaigns publicly funded, which critics say favors men and those from wealthier backgrounds.
“These requirements particularly disempower women who are less likely to have the same powerful local networks to sponsor their candidacy as men and the same financial means as their male counterparts. Together, this will likely contribute to their political exclusion,” Chellali noted.
Legislative elections in Tunisia are scheduled for December 17.
Opposition against Said
Last month, thousands of Tunisians demonstrated in the capital, Tunis, denouncing steps taken by Saied to consolidate political power and demanding accountability for the country’s long economic crisis.
Saied came to power by decree after shutting down parliament last year and expanding his powers with a new constitution adopted in a referendum in July.
Critics say his actions undermined democracy guaranteed by a 2011 revolution that toppled longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring.
A deteriorating economic situation, compounded by supply shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, has unsettled many people in the North African country of 12million. .
Cash-strapped Tunisia is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout loan of around $2 billion.