An unprecedented citizen consultation is the subject of debate in Tunisia


Tunis

From our correspondent

Children’s laughter echoed in the hallways. The agitation is palpable this afternoon in the youth center in the district of Sidi Hassine, in Tunis. It is here that the president has chosen to launch his platform of popular consultations in the form of an experiment since the 1er January.

This unprecedented initiative, in the country that launched the wave of the Arab Spring, is the pride of the inhabitants of this poor district of the capital, with small half-finished brick houses.

Before being open to the entire population from January 15 to March 20, the “e-istichara” (“Consultation”) site is being tested in 24 youth centers, one per governorate. That of Sidi Hassine is particularly well equipped, with its ten computers, its web-radio, its classrooms and its art and sport courses. It is Mila Saidi who welcomes the citizens with enthusiasm. “I was able to give my opinion on subjects that were close to my heart. In addition, there is a space for free expression! “, she rejoices. Everyone is invited through thirty questions, asked in classical Arabic, to express themselves in matters of economy, health, digital technology, education, society and to pass judgment on the exceptional regime. in force for almost six months. So the general question “What do you wish for the future of the country? “ she rubs shoulders with those, more precise, “What do you need to access electronic services? “ Where “Do you support the freezing of deputies? “.

But not all of them share the enthusiasm of the young employee. As of January 10, only 890 people had taken part in the exercise, two-thirds of them men and 50% of citizens over 40 years old.

Achref Oueti, 30, is a neighborhood child. Residing in France for four years, he came out of curiosity to answer questions. He certainly appreciated the part on digital: “Young people want to be connected, we have to catch up”, he believes. In Tunisia, online payments remain difficult to access and the time-consuming administrative procedures are not digitized.

But this engineering graduate draws a bitter conclusion: many young people continue to leave the country. “And the situation is not going to improve. The government is asking us for our opinion, when it does not have the means to solve our problems, with a huge budget deficit and the economic crisis ”, he judges. Dorsaf is harder still. This school guide refuses to participate in these consultations “Which are useless”. “The situation is catastrophic: unemployment, increasing delinquency, poverty”, she shouts.

President Kaïs Saïed used this dissatisfaction widely shared among the population to oust political parties and Parliament, frozen since July 25. This consultation constitutes the first tool of direct democracy that he advocates. But no one knows what this will be used for or how these answers will be used. And many question the security and anonymity of the data collected.

For Achref Oueti, this initiative serves above all to legitimize the actions of the president and the state of emergency: “The problems are known, it is no longer the time for a diagnosis, it is high time to act. “ But for the supporters of Kaïs Saïed, his way of doing things breaks with a corrupt ruling class.

Amara Beni Hamadi traveled 30 km to give his opinion: this platform will help, he says, “To provide solutions to allow the country to develop”. Souad, a doctoral student in politics, retorts that this consultation will only make sense if “It is followed by a real national dialogue with political parties, public figures, unions”. So many components of society ousted by the president.

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