A woman walks past graffiti that reads “Revolution” in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, on Aug. 27. (Anis Mili/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 25, Tunisian President Kais Saied took actions that may end the country’s internationally celebrated constitution. He invoked the constitution’s emergency clause, fired the prime minister, suspended the legislature and declared himself the attorney general. Last Monday, he extended the temporary measures indefinitely. Some expect Saied to attempt to suspend the constitution and replace it with a new one, probably featuring a presidential system. Although it is difficult to gauge public opinion during a time of great uncertainty, Saied’s moves seem to have popular support. As a result, some observers have suggested that Tunisians have lost (or perhaps never had) interest in democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Many Tunisians – or at least the ones in the streets in the last few days – seem to have a more ambivalent relationship with democracy.’ Anti-government protests in Tunis, 25 July 2021. Photograph: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

Implicit in US and western support for pro-democracy movements and transitions around the world is an assumption that, given a free choice, a system of elected, representative government is what people will always naturally prefer. But what if this assumption is wrong? What if a majority believes democracy doesn’t work for them?

Emerging testimony from Tunisia, the latest country to face a crisis over how it is run, suggests many citizens welcomed the forceful suspension of a democratically elected parliament that had failed to address people’s problems and was widely reviled as a self-serving oligarchy.
Mohammed Ali, 33, from Ben Guerdane, seems to typify this view.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldiers stood by in Tunis after President Kais Saied of Tunisia dismissed the government and froze Parliament this week. Credit EPA, via Shutterstock

On the morning of July 26, my colleagues and I — all of us democratically elected members of Parliament — found the Parliament building in downtown Tunis surrounded by army tanks and our access blocked on the orders of President Kais Saied.

In a televised speech the night before, Mr. Saied announced a host of measures, the most startling of which was suspending the work of the elected legislature. He stripped members of Parliament of their parliamentary immunity, sacked the prime minister and consolidated judicial and executive power in his hands. By doing so, Mr. Saied is seeking to overturn the results of an entire decade’s hard work by Tunisians who have fought for democratic reforms.…  Seguir leyendo »

People pass the Sidi Bashir mosque in the Bab el-Fellah area of Tunisia's capital Tunis on July 28. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

An escalating political crisis is now pushing Tunisia’s democracy to the brink. On Sunday, President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament, moves his critics have called a “coup.”

Saied’s decision is without precedent in Tunisia, the lone sustained democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring. What happened Sunday is a major escalation in the long series of crises that have characterized the country’s post-revolutionary politics. With Tunisia’s health system collapsing under a tide of coronavirus infections, the economy in free fall and parliamentary blocs locked in stalemate, Saied invoked Article 80 of the constitution to claim unchecked executive authority for at least 30 days.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Kais Saied seut up the Tunisian flag on the roof of a store in front of the riot police, during a demonstration held in front of the building of the Tunisian parliament in Bardo, in the capital Tunis, Tunisia, on July 26, 2021. Chedly Ben Ibrahim / NurPhoto via AFP

What has happened in Tunisia?

Late on 25 July, following a day of rowdy demonstrations that included reports of looting, President Kaïs Saïed invoked the constitution’s Article 80, which grants the president augmented powers in emergency situations, citing as his justification the collapse of many public services and destruction of government property. Saïed also “froze” parliament for 30 days, revoked legislators’ parliamentary immunity and seized control of the public prosecutor’s office. The next day, he cited the same article to dismiss by presidential decree Hichem Mechichi, the prime minister and interim interior minister whose nearly one-year tenure had become marked by increasing paralysis as the country grew more polarised, as well as the defence, justice and civil service ministers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied gather in Tunis on July 25. (Str/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

This week, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the country’s prime minister, suspended its parliament and deployed troops to ensure legislators did not enter the building. This constitutional coup appears a clear effort to replace the fragile democratic regime with strongman rule. It answers the wishes of millions of Tunisians disillusioned with their weak democracy, whose dysfunction is exposed by a rampant covid-19 pandemic. Yet, as the cases of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show, while strongman rule can bring a measure of stability and progress in the short run, it cannot fix the country’s deep-seated problems.

Arab despots dream of reproducing South Korea’s Park Chung-hee and often begin their rules with success stories.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks in the central market in Tunis on Wednesday, a day before a national lockdown and the 10th anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. (Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP)

Ten years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia remains the lone success story. While its neighbors collapsed into civil war or renewed dictatorship, Tunisia has broken the mold, transitioning to democracy in 2011 and maintaining it since. Today, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied is the only head of state in the region who can claim they won a free and fair election.

What explains Tunisia’s political success? Some argue that it’s a small, homogenous country with a high level of development, a well-educated citizenry and with a culture of tolerance. But in 2013, despite these qualities, Tunisia’s transition was on the verge of collapse, with two political assassinations, severe political polarization and the suspension of the country’s sole elected institution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisie 2011, une révolution rapide et inattendue

La Révolution tunisienne a 10 ans aujourd’hui. Une décennie s’est donc écoulée, jour pour jour, depuis l’annonce du départ du président dictateur Zine ben Abidine ben Ali vers l’Arabie saoudite, où il mourut en 2019 à l’âge de 83 ans. Le 14 janvier 2011, après à peine un mois de manifestations, les Tunisiens ont en effet constaté avec stupeur la fin d’un règne sans partage de 23 ans sur leur pays.

Comment en est-on arrivé là ?

À mon arrivée en 2007, je suis rapidement frappé par les contrastes qui marquent ce pays.

Sur le plan politique, le régime est vieillissant.…  Seguir leyendo »

Graffiti shows a man turning into a bird in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Oct. 27. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

Ten years ago, Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a poor town in Tunisia, driven to despair by life under a corrupt regime that saw common people as subjects to be neglected or oppressed. The nationwide protests that erupted in the wake of this tragic act sent our dictator fleeing less than a month later, launching our effort at democracy and inspiring the greatest show of people power in memory — a murky series of events which came to be known as the Arab Spring.

I have fond memories of singing “Kelmti Horra” (My Word Is Free) on Avenue Habib Bourguiba during the first days of the revolution — a song I had not intended to become an anthem for the Arab Spring, yet whose message still reverberates today.…  Seguir leyendo »

Figura 2. Grupos parlamentario de la Asamblea de Representantes del Pueblo (2019)


El impacto económico y social de la crisis del COVID-19 corre el riesgo de acentuar las fracturas dentro de la sociedad tunecina. Las elecciones presidenciales y legislativas de 2019 mostraron la atomización del escenario político en ese país. Algunos ya plantean la necesidad de refundar la Segunda República tunecina surgida de la Constitución de 2014.


Los 100 primeros días del gobierno de Elyes Fakhfakh, resultado de las transacciones entre partidos tras las elecciones de octubre de 2019, han coincidido con la crisis provocada por la pandemia del COVID-19 . Tras la detección, el 2 de marzo, del primer caso de contagio, el nuevo ejecutivo adoptó una batería de medidas preventivas (confinamiento, suspensión de toda conexión aérea y marítima desde el 13 de marzo, interrupción de las actividades escolares, cierre de mezquitas y limitación de la movilidad).…  Seguir leyendo »

Desde la revolución tunecina de 2010-2011, los reformistas han insistido cada vez más en la necesidad de “humanizar” el sistema de justicia penal tunecino y hacerlo más consistente con la nueva Constitución. Gracias a la presión de la sociedad civil, en los últimos años los sucesivos gobiernos han comenzado a adoptar importantes reformas, como una ley de 2016 de protección de los derechos elementales de los sospechosos durante la detención. Más aún, las autoridades están revisando los códigos de procedimientos y las leyes penales.

Sin embargo, el sistema judicial tunecino sigue siendo tremendamente represivo, tanto en las cláusulas de las leyes penales (ya sea las que se encuentran en el código penal mismo o dispersas en estatutos específicos) como en la manera en que estas se implementan.…  Seguir leyendo »

D’après l’Institut national de la statistique (INS), le taux de chômage en Tunisie était de 15,3 % au deuxième trimestre 2019. Près de 43 % des 628 000 sans-emploi sont des diplômés et le chômage est plus important chez les femmes (22,8 %) que chez les hommes (12,3 %). Parallèlement, l’économie informelle représente près de 30 % de l’activité.

Contrebande, emplois non déclarés et fraude fiscale sont les manifestations d’un mal qui rend l’économie formelle de plus en plus vulnérable. La Tunisie souffre d’un manque de compétitivité. Selon le classement du Forum économique mondial 2019-2020, elle occupe le 87e rang sur 141 pays.…  Seguir leyendo »

La elección de Kaïs Saïed a la presidencia de la República de Túnez no sólo es emblemática de la actual situación del país magrebí, sino de una aspiración de todos los pueblos del arco sur del Mediterráneo. En primer lugar, su nombramiento como mandatario ha tenido lugar en un contexto de democracia pluralista real, efectiva, sin coacción autoritaria o mafiosa alguna. En este sentido, es el principal acervo de la revolución democrática de 2011: Túnez sigue demostrando que la ruptura política introducida en aquel año se ha esculpido como una de sus señas de identidad fundadora.

Segundo, se pone de relieve que la reivindicación central del pueblo tunecino, es la de un sistema político basado en la transparencia, la fusión estrecha entre las capas dirigentes y el pueblo, la honestidad como categoría clave en la conducción de los asuntos públicos.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Trump is lashing out against the media and his opposition as he faces impeachment for turning U.S. foreign policy into an extension of his reelection campaign. The British Parliament is poised to vote down Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s legislative program next week, raising the prospect of a “zombie government” crippled by a deepening split over Brexit. And a Polish election has delivered a resounding win for the authoritarian Law and Justice party — effectively rewarding it for a systematic assault on press freedom and other democratic institutions.

This is not a happy time for advocates of liberal democracy.

And yet there was one dazzling bolt of good news that emerged from the darkness this weekend: Tunisia just held the second round of its presidential vote — and the people won.…  Seguir leyendo »

Winners and losers of Tunisia’s parliamentary electionsMembers of Tunisia's Independent High Authority for Elections count votes a day after the parliamentary election. (Riadh Dridi/AP)

Tunisians voted in parliamentary elections on Sunday, their second of three elections scheduled this fall. About 41 percent of registered voters turned out to vote, slightly lower than the 49 percent in the first round of the presidential elections held Sept. 15.

The elections will create a highly fractured parliament, with no party or list receiving more than 20 percent of the vote. While results will be announced Wednesday, exit polls suggest a narrow victory for the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, with about 18 percent of the vote, followed closely by newcomer Qalb Tounes, with about 16 percent. Five smaller parties secured between 4 percent and 6 percent of the vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Tunisia's jailed presidential candidate, Nabil Karoui, attend a campaign event in Tunis on Friday. (Fethi Belaid AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Tunisia is holding the second free presidential election in its history. The Tunisian democracy faces high uncertainty, with a populist candidate, Nabil Karoui, leading in the polls. Among other unprecedented circumstances, the presidential election will precede parliamentary elections set to take place next month. This is due to an exceptional case: the death of the first democratically elected Tunisian president this past July. The reversed order of operations and the unique variety of candidates pose a threat to an already fragile process. Here’s what you should know.

The top two candidates identify as populists.

The name Nabil Karoui may be the biggest surprise of the presidential election.…  Seguir leyendo »

The funerary procession of late Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi on 27 July. Photo: Getty Images.

After close to 100 candidate applications, Tunisia’s presidential election on 15 September will feature 27 confirmed candidates, reflecting the country’s fluid political situation and an ongoing split between traditional parties and alliances and enduring anti-establishment populism. The election has been moved up from its originally scheduled November date following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi on 25 July.

Since the 2011 revolution, the Tunisian political landscape has shifted significantly as electoral coalitions have been made and unmade, and as established political parties have fractured into smaller parties or collapsed amid leadership disagreements. In this context, presidential candidates reflect less party platforms and affiliation and more the ambitions of self-styled charismatic figures.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Tunisian independent electoral commission announced last week the 26 candidates running in next month’s early presidential election. From among Tunisia’s political elite, the list includes the current and multiple former prime ministers, its defense minister and a former president. That’s in addition to a media mogul, a fugitive and, for the first time, an official candidate of the Ennahda Party.

Even though Tunisia has seen multiple elections since its 2011 revolution, this year’s presidential race is shaping up to be an exceptional one: hugely competitive and remarkably unpredictable.

The death of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on July 25 crucially reshaped the structure of the contest and upended the calculations of parties and candidates.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Tunisia, 47 percent of seats on the ballot in the 2018 municipal assembly elections are now held by women. This increase is due in part to a constitutionally mandated electoral gender quota.

Women are running for — and winning — elected office worldwide in ever greater numbers. A record number of women won seats in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, and six women are running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Women are also making strides electorally in nondemocratic regimes, including in Rwanda, which currently has the highest proportion of women worldwide in its legislature — 64 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, Tunisians finally got to see a five-volume report detailing past abuse and naming people responsible or complicit in the authoritarian system — including the country’s president.

The report, prepared by the Truth and Dignity Commission, was the result of more than four years of work and aims to address the country’s authoritarian past. It delivers important insights in an ongoing justice process — and also shows the challenges Tunisia faces as it tries to move forward.

What is the report about?

The report fulfills several functions: It gives an overview of the Tunisian transitional justice process and explains the work of the truth commission.…  Seguir leyendo »