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Women Representation Drops in Tunisia’s New Parliament

FILE - A ballot is displayed at a polling station in Mnihla district during the parliamentary election, December 17, 2022.

Tunisian political experts report that the North African nation’s newly elected parliament is set to take their seats next month and will witness a drop in female representation.

Tunisian political experts report that recent electoral reforms that were introduced by President Kais Saied have led to a reduction of women that will be part of the newly elected parliament.

The North African nation was previously seen as a champion of women’s rights in the Arab world, however campaigners blame Saied’s reforms for making it harder for female candidates to run for public office in the recent elections.

Sana Ghenima, the head of Femmes et Leadership, a nonprofit group that promotes women’s participation in politics, said the recent elections were historical.

“This is the first time in Tunisian history that women get excluded in this way,” said Ghenima.

Ghenima also accused President Saied of oppressing women.

“Saied is far away from the practice of politics on the ground,” she said, adding, “he is … ignoring years of struggles by women.”

The office of the presidency did not immediately respond to requests for a comment and the president is yet to address the matter publicly since the election.

Saied’s electoral reforms included requirements for candidates that are seeking to occupy public office and the abolition of a quota system that was introduced in 2014 to boost women’s representation in the legislature.

Researchers say the effects of the new reforms will be visible in mid-March when parliament convenes and will witness female lawmakers occupying 16% of the seats in the new legislature.

Awatef Cheniti, one of the female lawmakers who will be part on the new parliament, said she encountered patriarchal attitudes during her campaign.

“It wasn’t at all easy, especially for me living in an ultraconservative area,” said Cheniti.

“I can’t believe I actually made it,” she added.