During yesterday’s National Constituent Assembly plenary session, opposition members were accused of vote fraud. “While voting on one of the articles concerning the complementary budget, 162 votes were counted, while there were only 146 members present in the session,” said Constituent Assembly member Jawhara Ettiss, from the Ennahdha party.
According to Ettiss, a number of opposition members voted on behalf of colleagues who were not present in the chamber. “I know these members, but I will not to reveal their names out of respect. What happened disrespected the integrity of the Constituent Assembly. But out of respect, I prefer not to reveal their names,” Ettiss asserted.
She further explained the voting process, and how members can circumvent the normal procedure, which stipulates that each member may vote only once.
“In front of every member there is a voting machine, and members are only allowed to use their own machines to vote. However, some members were also voting on other people’s machines,” she said.
Samir Betaib, a member of the Constituent Assembly representing the opposition (from the PDM party), denied that the practice of voting on behalf of absent members was fraudulent.
“This is not true,” he said. “Sometimes some members leave their seats for some reason, and ask their colleagues to vote for them. Members do not stay at their seats the whole day. At times they go out to talk to journalists or to do something else,” Betaib stated.
The parliamentary session was filmed by national television, and videos and pictures of the events in question quickly circulated on social networks.
Some opposition members have accused Ennahda followers of forging pictures of people cheating while voting. Betaib claimed that bloggers of the Ennahda party were faking pictures of members submitting votes on the adjacent machine. Ettiss responded by saying that these are serious accusations that lack proof or evidence.
“It is not acceptable that members start accusing people without having any proof. The role of the Constituent Assembly is to provide people with official information. Spreading this kind of news is not acceptable,” she concluded.
The center-right, Islamist party Ennahdha won a plurality of seats in Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly elections this past October. The elections were the first since the Arab Spring protest movement prompted former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to leave office and flee the country.
Since the elections, a tripartite collation comprised of Ennahdha, CPR, and Ettakatol has been governing the country.