Watchdog Group Releases Report Card on PM Days Before Election

Members of the NGO IWatch-including its president Achref Aouadi (far right)-present “Chahed Meter,” an evaluation of the prime minister’s fulfillment of his promises at a press conference in Hotel Africa in Tunis, Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Meshkal news team.

On Saturday morning, the non-governmental organization IWatch presented a report card on Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s success in fulfilling the promises he made during his tenure, eight days before voters decide between him and 25 other candidates for president.

“As a civil society organization, what do we want? We want that the people who govern Tunisia are accountable to their promises,” Achref Aouadi, president and co-founder of IWatch, the anti-corruption NGO partnered with Transparency International, said at the press conference at Hotel Africa.

The report card—what IWatch calls its “Chahed Meter”—is part of a tradition the NGO has of regularly assessing the promises of Tunisia’s highest officials. Previous iterations of the “Meter” include assessments of former prime ministers (“Jomaa Meter”; “Essid Meter”) and former President Beji Caid Essebsi (“Essebsi Meter”). IWatch describes the Meter on its website as “as a continuation of the organization’s efforts to establish a culture of accountability and to push officials to commit more to fulfilling their promises to voters.”

The timing of the Meter during Tunisia’s presidential election campaign provoked some criticism from a few audience members gathered for the event.

“We are in an election campaign, so when you release the Chahed Meter in this period, it’s either propaganda or anti-propaganda,” one member of the audience commented during the question and answer session immediately following the press conference.

Aouadi responded that they had planned to release the Meter much earlier, before the death of former President Beji Caid Essebsi forced the election schedule to move to an earlier date, and that after an internal discussion IWatch decided to continue with the event as initially planned.

“Do the election conditions no longer allow us to make an assessment?” Aouadi asked rhetorically, stressing that civil society has a unique role to play in society.

According to the Meter, Chahed succeeded in following through on 43 of his promises while failing on 59 of them. IWatch divided the promises into categories and found that Chahed had the best proportion of success to failure in foreign policy, succeeding in five and failing in three of the eight promises he made there.

Aouadi clarified that they took Chahed’s promises largely from his addresses to parliament, but that a second category of promises included those he made while visiting regions outside of the capital Tunis, including in Sfax, Tataouine, Medenine, and Ben Guerdane. While IWatch found that Chahed came through on both of his promises to the relatively wealthy city of Sfax, his record on promises to the other three southern and relatively poorer cities was worse.

According to IWatch’s Chahed meter, Chahed did not fulfill any of the seven promises he made on social issues, including those relating to Tunisia’s social security fund, health coverage, policy towards low-income groups, workers’ rights and conditions, and consumer rights.

“Today, poor neighborhoods still suffer from marginalization,” Medhi Dahech, regional coordinator for IWatch, said at the press conference.

While the Meter indicates that prime minister Chahed failed in more promises than he succeeded, IWatch attributes part of this to the challenges of an unstable political scene and also to unrealistic promises.

“Hopefully in the next period, we wish for more governmental stability, we wish that the government has more time to work, but especially we wish that the next prime minister or the next president has some awareness, makes promises that he can follow through on. We wish also that they make reasonable promises,” Aoudi said.

“Today we don’t want officials to come, give a bunch of promises and then leave,” he added.