Opponents of Tunisian President Kais Saied protest in Tunis, September 2021. Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

A year ago, Tunisia’s fledgling democracy—the last to survive after a series of popular uprisings swept the Arab world in 2011—faced a severe test after an extraordinary self-coup by President Kais Saied on July 25, 2021. Within a matter of hours, Saied fired Tunisia’s prime minister, suspended its democratically elected parliament for 30 days, and assumed all executive power. Saied justified his actions by citing Article 80 of Tunisia’s 2014 constitution, which allows a president who determines that the country is facing “imminent danger” to take “any measures necessitated by the exceptional circumstances”.

But what was initially described as a temporary emergency measure has now been extended indefinitely.…  Seguir leyendo »

Túnez: el desmantelamiento de una democracia


Un año después de la toma de poder del presidente Kais Saied, Túnez está dirigido por un individuo que está institucionalizando un sistema en el que puede gobernar solo sin oposición.


La tan alabada transición democrática de Túnez tiene muchos aspectos y el hecho de que no haya dado resultados económicos ha hecho que se cuestione entre una mayoría de tunecinos. Por eso, cuando un presidente populista como Kais Saied prometió cambiar el sistema y librar al país de su clase política, funcionó. El Presidente, desconocido para el público en general hace apenas unos años, y poco activo en la política tunecina durante la dictadura, encarnó la ira de una nación deprimida y la canalizó para iniciar un nuevo capítulo.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Monday, Tunisians have been going to the polls to vote on a new constitution proposed by President Kais Saied. At stake is nothing less than the fate of the Arab world’s most promising experiment in democratic governance. If Saied gets his way, Tunisia could send an ominous signal to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, where despotic rulers remain entrenched.

In 2011, a popular uprising in Tunisia sparked by a young fruit vendor’s suicide overthrew the dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled for 23 years. The events in Tunisia triggered a wave of similar revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa, an upheaval that came to be known as the Arab Spring.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man stands outside the Supreme Judicial Council building in Tunis on Feb. 6. (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters)

Early Sunday morning, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced his intent to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council, the body tasked with ensuring the independence of the country’s judicial system. This move, the latest in a series of efforts by Saied to consolidate power after he suspended parliament and declared a state of emergency in July 2021, comes after months of the president’s attacks on Tunisian judges.

These latest attempts by Saied to consolidate power come less than two weeks after the anniversary of the ratification of Tunisia’s post-uprising constitution, negotiated in the years following the country’s 2010-2011 Arab Spring uprising. While the new constitution was a momentous accomplishment for Tunisia, its future is uncertain at the moment.…  Seguir leyendo »

Watc List 2022. Middle East & North Africa. Tunisia: Toward a Return to Constitutionality

Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries facing deadly conflict, humanitarian emergency or other crises in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could save lives and enhance prospects for stability.

On 25 July 2021, when President Kais Saïed invoked Article 80 of the constitution to suspend parliament and dismiss the prime minister, he introduced a state of emergency that threatens Tunisia with unprecedented instability. The country faces a daunting set of economic and social challenges. Yet its leaders have limited means with which to tackle these problems or meet the population’s high expectations.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man shouts during a demonstration marking the ninth anniversary of the assassination of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid in Tunis on Feb. 2. (Mohamed Messara/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

While we are distracted by the looming war in Europe, the “genocide Olympics” in China and the never-ending pandemic, the last hope for a successful Arab democracy in the Middle East is fading. Tunisia, the only real success story from the Arab Spring, is slipping into the autocratic abyss — and the United States is nowhere to be seen.

Last July, When President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister, dissolved the parliament and turned the military on his political opponents, the international community generally expressed cautious optimism that Saied would quickly hand back the power he had just grabbed. Despite warnings that he was perpetrating a “self-coup”, the Biden administration decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisian President Kais Saied announces the formation of a new government in Tunis on Oct. 11. (Tunisian Presidency/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sept. 29, President Kais Saied raised eyebrows in Tunisia by naming the little-known university lecturer Najla Bouden Ramadhane as prime minister. Though historic — Ramadhane would be the Arab world’s first female head of government — the appointment comes during the most turbulent times in Tunisia since the country’s 2011 revolution, which sparked the Arab Spring revolts. She takes her post two months after Saied dismissed her predecessor and dissolved parliament on July 25, leading many to fear he is taking the country back to one-man rule.

A sizable percentage of Tunisians have welcomed the president’s power grabs. A sputtering economy, persistent corruption and rising covid-19 cases have contributed to widespread disillusionment with political parties.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhan takes the oath during the country's new government swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 11, 2021, in Tunis. (Tunisian Presidency/Via Reuters)

On Sept. 29, Tunisian President Kais Saied named Najla Bouden Romdhan the country’s new prime minister, making her the first woman to serve in that role in Tunisia — and in the entire Arab world.

Romdhan’s appointment came after Saied launched a political crisis in late July when he dismissed the prime minister and shut down the parliament, followed by his Sept. 22 issuance of Decree 117, in which he gave himself extraordinary powers and suspended most checks on his authority.

Arab autocrats have long used support for women’s rights to deflect criticism of authoritarian rule. Yet, since the Arab Spring launched there a decade ago, Tunisia had made a successful transition to democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisian President Kais Saied delivers a speech during his visit to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Sept. 20. (Slim Abid/Tunisian presidency/AP)

On Sept. 22, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied issued Decision 117 — this effectively establishes a new constitutional order in which the president has granted himself extraordinary power, far in excess of anything Tunisia has experienced in its modern history. Decision 117 places itself above the existing constitutional order and essentially abolishes the entire system of government laid out in Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.

Decision 117 suspends much of the constitution adopted following the 2011 popular uprising against decades of dictatorial rule. This constitution was supposed to usher in a new form of democratic rule reducing the powers of the presidency, with parliament playing a more important role in governing the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »