Covert political money threatens elections in Tunisia: Suspicious financing

Fear of the dubious spread of financing in election campaigns (Getty)

The specter of political money does not seem far from the next Tunisian parliament, after the influence of financial cartels dominated previous versions of the Tunisian parliament, amid expectations of the formation of a new scene led by sectoral interests under a system of government established by the constitution, which gives local government wider powers.

On December 17, Tunisians will elect a new parliament in accordance with the provisions of the constitution adopted in a referendum held last July, a year after President Kais Saied suspended the parliament elected in 2019.

1052 candidates distributed in 24 countries will compete in 151 constituencies in the homeland, and only three candidates abroad, while 7 constituencies abroad remained without candidates.

While organizations and parties warned of loopholes in the election decree that Kais Saied himself passed in mid-September, which opened the way for hidden political money, and some influential people, dignitaries and financial cartels to run for elections due to his cancellation of public financing of election campaigns .

Mohab Belkaroui, executive director of I am Watching (a civil organization specializing in the fight against corruption), says that bringing political money back to the fore through a new legislative institution is strongly recommended in light of the shortcomings of watchdog agencies. , which indicates the infiltration of foreign funds for the financing of election campaigns and the rise of dubious parliamentarians. corruption.

In a statement to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Belkaroui confirmed that the organization received information about the circulation of foreign funds to be used in the election campaign through political parties, which the organization informed the Central Bank of Tunisia.

The executive director of the association “Gledam” added that the questionable financing of the election and the attempt to control influential people over the new convocation of the parliament will not stop, pointing out that there is a difference between the current version of the election and the previous versions. is the weakness of supervisory bodies and the instability of judicial institutions, which increases the assumption that violators will be punished.

The president does not rule out the possibility of the rise of smuggling barons who enjoy great influence in their constituencies in the new parliament, allowing them to control the scene and buy votes with the money they pay voters.

During the past decade, entrepreneurs and large economic dealers in Tunisia did not hide their support for election candidates, because the campaigns of candidates from different political parties are not without the prominent presence of influential economic figures, while the financial figures pumped by entrepreneurs into the accounts of parties and candidates remain hidden, despite strict laws about censorship. About party accounts and propaganda campaigns, amid warnings about the dangerous negative effects of internal and external political money.

The President of Tunisia, Qais Saeed, warned about the corruption of political money and the danger of the rise of smugglers, monopolists and speculators in political life.

Saeed indicated, in a meeting he had with Prime Minister Mah Abu Wadan, and before that with Interior Minister Tawfiq Sharaf al-Din, that “the election-related decree provides for criminal penalties, whether for the bribe-giver or the bribe-taker, and must address attention to what some people conspire through corrupt money to buy people’s debts.” , according to him.

Those with financial influence in Tunisia are usually behind the executive power, because the interests of businessmen, members of the government and parliament are intertwined, while the people are left to their fate due to the deteriorating social and economic situation in the country. But the situation changed after July 25, 2021, when it seemed that the relationship between the authorities and the businessmen was not good due to the accusations of the businessmen for acquiring illegal profits.

As the battle for influence rages between the owners of the money and the political decision-making circles, Tunisians continue their daily battle with price pressures, inflation and poverty driving them to street protests demanding the realization of the basic demands of the revolution. , namely employment and fair distribution of wealth.

Tunisia’s budget deficit, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Finance, rose to $3.03 billion, compared to an expected deficit of $2.6 billion at the beginning of the year.

Tunisia, which is suffering from a severe financial crisis, is trying to find solutions to revive its economy through a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Economic expert Khaled Al-Nouri believes that the new parliament will produce a different scene dominated by sectoral regional lobbies that will defend the interests of their perspectives within the regions, trying to transfer influence from the central to the regional, in accordance with the economic model that Saeed’s government intends to implement through projects civil companies and criminal conciliation.

The financially powerful in Tunisia usually line up behind the executive branch, where the interests of businessmen, members of the government and parliament are intertwined, while the people are left to their fate.

In a statement to The New Arab, Al-Nouri said that more than 50 percent of the candidates for the new parliament are government sector employees, mostly supporters of Saeed’s project.

The economist pointed out that Tunisia is moving towards a complex regional system dominated by the interests of sectoral parties in the regions at the expense of the public interest, which, according to him, can increase the fragmentation of the economic scene.

Al-Nouri expected the candidates of the current parliament to find support from businessmen involved in criminal reconciliation or those prosecuted in financial cases, in an attempt to infiltrate the new scene to protect their interests.

The role of the business lobby in influencing parliament and the government often comes up during the debate on the financial law, as economic dealers increase the pressure to pass a tax-reduced budget that creates the climate for them to achieve the highest amount of profit in exchange for what they call a contribution to development and job creation .

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