Tunisia's Saied downplays abysmal voter turnout, slams critics
Tunisia's President Kais Saied on Wednesday played down massive abstention in this month's parliamentary elections and slammed critics who have accused him of dragging the country towards dictatorship.
Just 11.2 percent of registered voters took part in the 17 December polls for a neutered parliament, which capped Saied's overhaul of the political system since his sweeping power group last year in the birthplace of the pro-democracy uprising known as the Arab Spring.
Turnout - initially announced at just under nine percent - was the lowest since the 2011 revolution that overthrew dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and was seen as a blow to Saied and his political programme.
"Turnout of nine percent or 12 percent is better than 99 percent in previous elections, which were welcomed by foreign countries even though they knew they were rigged," Saied said in a monologue to his cabinet.
He then lashed out at unnamed critics, accusing such rivals of "drowning in corruption and treachery" and of "plotting against the state" and its "internal and external security".
"This cannot continue, and these people cannot go unpunished," he said, in a video posted on his office's Facebook page.
The president's power grab began in July last year, when he sacked the government and suspended parliament, before he moved to seize control of the judiciary.
Saied also accused unnamed detractors of being behind repeated shortages of basic goods in recent months, saying they aimed to "incite against institutions of the state".
Saied denied accusations that human rights have been undermined in recent months, calling those who made such claims "mercenaries".