Young People in Electoral Law: The Tunisian Example

By Mohamed Nakib


The right to vote and the right to run for political office are among the most important political rights a citizen should enjoy to participate in political life and also to enhance the access of the public to authority, through democratic means. Tunisia is, perhaps, among the countries that have witnessed a major political transition during the last decade, where a new constitution was written for a second republic, the Constitution of January 27, 2014. Article 3 of this Constitution states “The people are sovereign and the source of authority, which is exercised through the peoples’ representatives and by referendum.”

Looking at this article, we can see that the people exercise their authority, as the original sovereign, through elections and referendums, as the Tunisian Constitution stated in its Article 34 that the rights to vote and to run for office are guaranteed according to what is set by law. The Constitution has referred here to organizing the election and candidacy and laying down its regulations for the law, provided that it does not compromise the essence of these rights. Further, these regulations are put in place except for a necessity required by a civil and democratic state, with the aim of protecting the rights of others or for the requirements of public security, national security, public health, or public morals, with respect the proportionality between these regulations and their obligations, as the judicial authorities guarantee protection of rights and freedoms from any violation.

The Tunisian constitution also focused on youth, as Article 8 stipulated the following: “Youth are an active force in building the nation. The state seeks to provide the necessary conditions for developing the capacities of youth and realizing their potential, supports them to assume responsibility, and strives to extend and generalize their participation in social, economic, cultural and political development.” Based on all of the above, the laws related to elections have paid attention to the youth component with regard to youth participation in political life through election or candidacy, and this has been applied on the ground in many electoral events during the past years, including the presidential and legislative elections in 2014, the municipal elections in 2017, and the presidential and legislative elections in 2019. We will discuss in the first part the Tunisian youth and the right to vote, then in the second part the Tunisian youth and the right to run for political office will be discussed.

First: Tunisian Youth and the Right to Vote

The right to vote is the right of every young Tunisian who completed 18 years of age on the day before an election or a referendum, as stated in Article 5 of Basic Law No. 16 of 2014 dated May 26, 2014 relating to elections and referendums: “A voter is every Tunisian who is registered in the registry of voters; they are eighteen years old on the day before the polls, enjoy civil and political rights, and are not included in any of the deprivation forms stipulated in this law.”

The registration in the electoral registry that is held by the Independent High Authority for Elections voluntarily means that the young man who has reached the age of 18 has the right to go to the nearest office that specializes in the electoral administration to register themselves in the electoral register, according to their actual residence. The state, through the independent electoral administration, encourages young people and other citizens to register and participate in elections. The voluntary registration of young person and the citizen in general, and the possibility of updating their registration according to their actual residence, is related to the ability and desire of young people to participate in political life. Tunisia has chosen voluntary registration so that the registration is not overseen by the executive authority that gives voter cards, for which it might make mistakes while distributing voter cards, thus culminating in some citizens not receiving their cards, which opens the door to distorting the electoral process and losing its credibility.

Of course, it must be mentioned that acquiring the status of a voter is not only limited to reaching the age of 18, but also that they are not fall under any of the violations that prevent them from exercising the right to vote. Here, one can see the Tunisian electoral law that highlighted these different forms of violations.

Second: Tunisian Youth and the Right to Run for Political Offices

The Tunisian legislator, through legal system related to the new elections, has worked on caring for young people to open the way for them to participate in political life, not only through elections, but also by giving them access to power whether to the presidency of the republic, membership of the Assembly of the People’s Representatives, or membership of local councils is municipal or regional.

Running for the Presidency of the Republic:

The Tunisian constitution of 2014 gave the right to those who have reached at least 35 years of age to file for running for the position of President of the Republic of Tunisia, of course, with a set of conditions concerning nationality and endorsement, among others.

Candidacy for membership in the Tunisian Parliament:

Candidacy for membership in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People is a right for every Tunisian national, who has been a Tunisian national for at least ten years, completed 23 years of age on the day of submitting their candidacy, provided that they are not included under any form of violations, stipulated by the law. The Tunisian legislator also tried to stress more on the need to include young people in the candidate lists for the legislative elections, as Article 25 of the Tunisian Electoral Law states that every candidate list, for legislative elections in a district that has four or more seats, must include among the first four a male or female candidate who is not older than 35 years old in order to obtain the full grant of public funding for the electoral campaign. If this condition is not fulfilled, the candidate list shall be deprived of half of the total value of the public grant. This stipulation has propelled the majority of candidate lists in the legislative elections, whether party lists, coalitions, or independent, to work as much as possible to include young people in their lists, resulting in a respectable percentage of young people, males and females, in the current and the previous assembly. This has become an impetus for political parties to get youth involved in running for elections.

Candidacy for membership of municipal and regional councils:

Article 43 of the Tunisian Electoral Law states that every Tunisian who has voter status and at least 18 years old on the day of submitting their candidacy can run for membership in municipal and regional councils.

As stated in Article 49 tenth of the Tunisian electoral law that every list running for municipal and regional elections must be among the first three in a candidate list or a candidate whose age is not more than 35 years on the day of submitting the application for candidacy. Further, the same article states that each list submitting their candidacy must include among every six candidates consecutively in the rest of the list a male of a female candidate who is not older than 35 years on the day the candidacy application was submitted. The legislator has placed significant value on the representation of young people in municipal councils during the 2017 elections, making the parties attract more youth to integrate them into political life.

The new electoral legal system in Tunisia after the Tunisian revolution of 14 January 2011 tried to accommodate young people much as possible. It worked to put in place many mechanisms in order to encourage young people to participate in political life, whether that was through elections and choosing who represented them or by running for various political public offices within the state.

Published on August 11, 2020

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