TUNIS : Area : 163,610 km2. Population : 11.4 million. Unemployment : 15.5% [Q4 2017]

Perceived Corruption : 2017 : 74th/Press Freedom : 97th.-RSF ranking of 180 countries].

Tunisia held its first free municipal elections on Sunday as voters expressed frustration at the slow pace of change since the 2011 revolution in the cradle of the Arab Spring.

The election has been touted as another milestone on the road to democracy in the North African country which has been praised for its transition from decades of dictatorship.

But Tunisia has struggled with persistent political and economic problems as well as corruption since the revolution, and observers expected a low turnout for Sunday's polls.

Only 13.6 per cent of voters had cast their ballots by midday, according to the Electoral Commission.

And despite bars and a clothing brand offering discounts to people with the ink-stained fingers proving they had cast ballots, young voters were markedly absent from polling stations in the capital.

Unemployed graduate Kamilia MIouki, 23, said she had come to ''exercise my right'' by casting a  blank ballot.

''I have no more faith in any political party or electoral list,'' she said.

Tunisians have already voted in parliamentary and presidential elections since the 2011 fall of dictator Zine AI Abidine Ben Ali, but municipal polls had been delayed four times due to logistical, administrative and political deadlocks.

The country was hit by a wave of protest at the start of  the year over a new austerity budget. [AFP]


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