Tunisia, which remains an exceptional case in the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of struggling to preserve its democracy, will elect parliament members Sunday through free and fair elections. Weeks after Tunisians refused to elect new presidential candidates, parliament elections have now taken precedence. As many as 15,000 candidates, running on more than 1,500 lists, are rivaling for 217 seats. Due to the ongoing fierce competition for the presidency, the parliamentary polls remained under its shadow. Nevertheless, the elections are important for making a decision on the country's future through democratic methods. In 2011, Tunisians were excited after the ousting ex-autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the country with an iron fist.
The ouster of Ben Ali, who died this month in exile, ignited the so-called Arab Spring. As a result of the Arab Spring across the region, most of the countries fell into conflicts or civil wars. Tunisia remains the only country that has not fallen into civil war or conflict. While Libya, Syria and Yemen continue to suffer from civil wars with the participation of numerous local, regional and international actors, Egypt witnessed a more brutal regime in 2013 after incumbent President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country's first-ever democratically elected president, who died in June during a court trial.
Despite the fact that Tunisia has remained among democratic countries, its economic situation is worrying and seems to be the top priority for its people. In 2018, Tunisia's trade deficit reached a record 19.04 billion dinars ($6.44 billion), compared to 15.59 billion dinars in 2017 and 12.6 billion dinars in 2016, according to data published by the National Institute of Statistics. Moreover, Tunisia's imports decreased by 20% in 2018, compared to 19.8% in 2017, reaching a total value of around 60 billion dinars, compared to around 50 billion dinars in 2017.
The economic deterioration makes people reluctant to pay attention to the politicians. Candidate Ghazi Mrabet said, "The majority of people are completely uninterested in the legislative elections." People are more interested in the presidential elections as the president is more visible as the head of the state. The legislative instrument may not be lent the same importance. Nonetheless, the elections are still important for demonstrating that Tunisia is holding onto the democratic way of ruling.
The parliamentary elections will also provide clues for the upcoming presidential elections. While secular and conservative parties compete in the parliamentary elections, Tunisia seems to give seats to any party that receives the required number of votes.
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