CW 51/2022: Regression and progress
Press Review 16 December 2022 to 23 December 2022

Parliamentary elections in Tunisia

Parliamentary elections were held in Tunisia last Saturday. According to official data from the electoral authority Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Élections (ISIE), only 11.22% of eligible citizens took part in the election. President Kais Saied’s legitimacy is thus increasingly in doubt. Opposition parties boycotted the elections and called on the President to resign. The powerful and largest trade union in the country Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) also said the parliamentary election made little sense. Critics accuse Saied of reversing the democratic progress made since the Arab Spring and leading the country back into an autocracy. Already in July 2021, the president had dismissed the government and suspended the work of parliament (see press review week 30/2021). The constitutional referendum on 25 July was another step towards the expansion of power (see press review week 25/2022), because since the introduction of a new constitution, the head of state can appoint and dismiss the government and also judges without the consent of parliament. Only 21 candidates were able to win in the parliamentary elections on Saturday. A run-off election is therefore scheduled for 20 January 2023, which will involve 131 of the total 161 constituencies. The final results will be announced on 3 March 2023. Despite calls by opposition parties and the UGTT for mass protests, this has not yet happened. However, the massive boycott of the elections shows the growing discontent of the Tunisian people, who are suffering from a financial crisis, inflation, unemployment and a shortage of basic foodstuffs. In order to qualify for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has postponed an urgently needed loan of 1.9 billion dollars until January at the earliest, the country is trying, among other things, to cut back on subsidies for bread and significantly reduce public spending, which is expected to further burden the population. International reactions are also sceptical. The European Union and the United States are increasingly distancing themselves from Saied. The US announced that it would cut its civilian and military aid to the North African country by half next year.

Closer partnership between Germany and Nigeria

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth travelled to Nigeria on Sunday for a three-day visit. The cooperation between Germany and the West African country should be deepened, especially with regard to the containment of the climate crisis. As Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria is a country that has international weight and can thus be an important cooperation partner for Germany, the Minister said. Nigeria is currently still a major CO2 emitter and exporter of fossil fuels, which is why an energy transition is of central importance for the country. Germany also assured further support in the fight against Islamist terror. During her trip, the Foreign Minister also visited the north-east of the country to see for herself the reconstruction of some villages that had been destroyed by the Boko Haram militia. However, the German government is not only seeking a closer partnership with Nigeria, but also would like to come to terms with its colonial history. Among other things, 20 Benin bronzes that had been stolen as a result of colonisation by Great Britain and had long been part of the holdings of several German museums were returned at a ceremonial handover on Tuesday. However, Germany is not the only country that considers dealing with the colonial era as an important step. Already on Monday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte officially apologised on behalf of his country for the role of the Netherlands in the history of slavery. In a government statement, he spoke out in favour of the clear recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity and announced that a fund of 200 million euros would be set up to raise awareness of the past and combat the effects of slavery in the present. The gesture, 150 years after the end of slavery in the Dutch colonies, comes after a commission’s report in 2021 recommended an official apology to the government and suggested tackling consequences such as racism.

In other news

Côte d’Ivoire is about to inaugurate its first solar power plant, as announced by Noumy Sidibé, director of the state-owned electricity utility CIE. This is to supply about 30,000 households and contribute to the creation of 300 jobs. The West African country has great potential for renewable energy deployment; 7,000 other green energy projects are currently in progress to contribute to the energy transition. With the launch of the first solar power plant, it is clear that the power utility is focusing on diversification in energy production. The share of renewable energies is to reach 42% by 2030. The German development bank KfW is contributing 27 million euros to the project and the European Union is also contributing 9.7 million euros. The project is part of the Compact with Africa initiative of the G20 countries, which aims to promote private investment in the development of renewable energies in Africa.

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