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 »

Divisions within Tunisia’s political leadership are preventing the government from addressing the country’s political and socio-economic challenges. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support measures that will prevent further polarisation.

Tunisia’s political transition is in trouble. Hopes that the country’s post-uprising leadership would successfully tackle its myriad of political and socio-economic challenges have started to dim. The economy is in the doldrums and the political leadership is increasingly split between Islamists and non-Islamists, both competing for control of state resources. This confluence of problems is stirring a general crisis of confidence in the political elite, and there is reason to fear that the country may backslide from its post-2011 democratic opening ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls at the end of the year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Workers across Tunisia are on strike to demand higher pay in a standoff with a government struggling to tame unemployment, poverty and social tensions. (Hassene Dridi/AP)

The UGTT, Tunisia’s powerful national labor union, began a countrywide strike on Thursday. The union is the most powerful in any Arab country, and it was a co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in guiding the country through the turbulent post-revolutionary transition. The strike will raise suspicions about the UGTT’s role moving forward as the country deals with fracturing ruling coalitions and a rise of “independent” candidates in the recent local elections.

The UGTT, or the Tunisian General Labor Union, has been a bulwark of Tunisia’s transition to democracy following the 2010-2011 revolution that ousted long-standing dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisia established the first independent truth-seeking commission in the Arab world four years ago. Last month, its president, Sihem Bensedrine, announced the commission’s closure.

To many, its mandate and mission symbolized the most important and final pillar of demands made by the 2011 Revolution, which ended decades of dictatorship and single-party rule. But today, few feel that it has lived up to that promise. What went wrong?

What the commission accomplished

The Truth and Dignity Commission (Instance Vérité et Dignité, or IVD, in French) was authorized to investigate state-led abuses from 1955 — a year before Tunisia’s 1956 independence from France — to 2013, two years after the revolution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Des manifestants jettent de pierres contre les forces de l'ordre après avoir érigé des barricades de fortune le 25 décembre 2018 à Kasserine, en Tunisie Photo Hatem SALHI. AFP

Pour son huitième anniversaire, la révolution tunisienne hésite entre le tragique et le découragement. Tragique quand des individus ne voient plus d’autre issue que le suicide, à l’instar du journaliste Abderrazak Zorgui qui s’est immolé le 24 décembre dernier, ou encore quand ils risquent clairement leur vie en traversant la Méditerranée sur des embarcations de fortune. Au-delà de ces cas extrêmes, la Tunisie se vide de personnels diplômés, notamment des médecins qui préfèrent chercher une autre vie en France ou au Canada.

Tout cela s’opère dans un environnement maussade et sur la base d’un constat récurrent de crise. La Tunisie est structurellement marquée par une difficulté à offrir à ses jeunes diplômés des emplois en accord avec leurs qualifications.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando las protestas antigubernamentales barrieron el mundo árabe en 2011, Túnez parecía en situación de salir fortalecida. Sin embargo, para 2013 el proceso democrático había sido prácticamente desbaratado por las promesas económicas incumplidas, los desacuerdos políticos e ideológicos y las interferencias extranjeras. Afortunadamente, la mediación local e internacional ayudó a evitar la catástrofe y allanó el camino para las elecciones.

Pero a menos de un año de los próximos comicios generales, programados para fines de 2019, el país vuelve a estar en crisis. En un mundo centrado en la guerra en Siria, la inestabilidad en Libia, la creciente autoconfianza de Rusia, la incertidumbre en Europa y los tuits de un presidente estadounidense aislacionista, Túnez ha ido desapareciendo de los titulares.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abderrazak Zorgui s'est immolé à Kasserine le 24 décembre. Photo capture d'écran sur YouTube

Rien de plus troublant de voir des êtres humains se donner la mort de la façon la plus atroce en s’immolant pour protester. Rien de plus tragique que de voir aujourd’hui des Tunisiens se suicider pour appeler à une nouvelle révolution en Tunisie. Mais cela est plus lourd de sens encore quand il s’agit d’un journaliste comme le fut Abderrazak Zorgui qui a voulu réveiller les consciences par le sacrifice de sa vie, le 24 décembre. Lourd de sens et de signification car les journalistes ne sont pas a priori les plus démunis. Ils disposent d’un moyen redoutable pour agir sur le monde : l’écriture.…  Seguir leyendo »

Eight years ago, the Arab Spring uprisings led to the overthrow of longtime dictators Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Many have attributed these unexpectedly quick ousters to the countries’ militaries defecting from the regime and siding with the opposition. But these depictions are not only inaccurate, they also have serious implications for theory and policy.

In a recent article, we argue that such interpretation of these events represent “Myths of Military Defection.” These myths have led scholars to inaccurately compare two very different armed forces and equate defection from the regime with support of the opposition.…  Seguir leyendo »

Extraño e interesante país. Crucial, a pesar de su tamaño limitado. Allí arrancaron las revueltas árabes de 2011 y allí se mantiene viva todavía la esperanza gracias a sus libertades, su democracia parlamentaria y su Estado de derecho como un auténtico islote en un océano de dictaduras, opresión y arbitrariedad.

Todo es excepcional en la transición tunecina a la democracia, iniciada el 14 de enero de 2011, tras el derrocamiento y huida del dictador Ben Ali, empujado por la imparable rebelión juvenil que estalló un 17 de diciembre de hace ocho años, tras la muerte de Mohamed Buazizi, un vendedor de fruta de una localidad del Túnez interior, Sidi Bouazid, que se prendió fuego con gasolina después de que la policía le incautara la mercancía.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is little to cheer 12 million Tunisians as they approach the eighth anniversary of the fall of Ben Ali next month. Security it is true has improved a lot since the terrorist attacks which devastated the important tourist sector in July 2015 and foreign visitors are back with a vengeance. The first democratic local elections last May passed off without a hitch. Greater freedom of speech (and insult) prevail, torture has virtually disappeared. Tunisia has escaped the fate of the other Arab countries which revolted against their dictators in 2011 only to sink into more repressive regimes (Egypt) or bloody mayhem (Syria, Yemen and Libya).…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisian army troops patrol the streets of the town of Sbiba in the province of Kasserine, known to be an important recruiting area for the Islamic State. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

Tunisia ranks among the top countries of origin for foreign recruits of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Leaked membership lists and details obtained from the profiles of recruits killed in battle provide an important data set of fighters’ biographical information to help determine factors contributing to their recruitment. We matched a list of 636 Tunisian Islamic State fighters derived from leaked border documents with information from the 2014 census, as well as other data. We found that fighters came from 128 of Tunisia’s 264 delegations.

But why would citizens of the only Arab democracy travel thousands of miles to participate in a violent insurgency?…  Seguir leyendo »

Amid international concern about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some 200 protesters gathered in central Tunis on Monday night to protest Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Tuesday arrival for talks with the Tunisian president. (Hassene Dridi)

The notion of a Tunisian “model” is a convenience for Western observers who still hope that all is not lost from the once heady optimism of the Arab Spring. It offers, however, little solace to Tunisians themselves, who sense — correctly — that their democracy remains imperfect. Tunisians, who haven’t lived under the sheer brutality of Egyptian dictatorship or the collapsing state structures of Yemen, aren’t comparing themselves to those countries; they are comparing themselves — rightfully — to what they wish they could be.

In our conversations with young Tunisians, we have often pointed out that Tunisia, unlike its neighbors, is at least relatively democratic.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of the Tunisian security forces stands guard at the site of a suicide attack in the Tunisian capital Tunis on 29 October, 2018. AFP/Fethi Belaid

What do we know about what happened, and who was behind the attack?

On 29 October, a suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device in her backpack on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis – the city’s best-known thoroughfare, a few hundred metres from the ministry of interior and the French embassy. The explosion killed her and wounded twenty bystanders, including fifteen policemen who appear to have been the intended target. For now, no group has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The 30-year-old woman – an unemployed graduate with an English degree from a small village near Mahdia, on the Mediterranean, who occasionally worked as a shepherdess – left no indication as to her motive.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisia’s president, Béji Caïd Essebsi, ordering the army last year to break up protests over unemployment and corruption.CreditCreditHassene Dridi/Associated Press

What followed the Arab Spring was not always a grim descent into civil war or counterrevolution. In Tunisia, the North African nation of 11 million, where the uprisings began in 2011, politicians navigated their way through mistrust, polarization and terrorist attacks with pragmatic consensus politics.

But now that political consensus is fraying, and the broken social contract that lay behind the original uprisings remains unrepaired. Inflation has surged, unemployment is stubbornly high, and strikes and street protests are widespread. The fragility of this vital democratic transition is suddenly exposed.

In a recent television interview, President Béji Caïd Essebsi declared an end to the five-year understanding between the secular party he founded, Nidaa Tounes, which largely represents the political and business elite of the old era, and its rival Ennahda, a former underground Islamist movement.…  Seguir leyendo »

The bloody three month-long standoff over crude oil export terminals in eastern Libya earlier this summer served as a stark reminder that the  United Nations are nowhere nearer to finding a political solution than they were when they started nearly seven years ago. One often overlooked consequence of this bloody stalemate is that it casts a long shadow over Algeria and Tunisia with which Libya shares long and porous borders.

Seven years ago, Italian and Algerian officials warned France, the UK and the US of the huge risks for regional security were Libya to disintegrate. Backing the military operation, NATO paid no heed to such warnings, despite what had happened in Iraq since 2003.…  Seguir leyendo »

Il y a un an, une parole d’Etat, celle du président de la République tunisienne, Béji Caïd Essebsi, proposait de modifier deux dispositions très sensibles, explicitement codifiées en défaveur des femmes : celle de l’héritage et celle du mariage avec un non-musulman. Rappelons pour mémoire qu’en Tunisie, conformément à la loi coranique, une femme n’hérite que de la moitié de ce qui revient à son frère (verset 11 de la Sourate des femmes : « Dieu vous recommande, en ce qui concerne vos enfants : aux mâles l’équivalent de la part de deux femmes… »). De plus, en aucun cas elle ne peut prendre cette décision jugée hérétique d’épouser un non-musulman, et ce conformément à une circulaire de 1973 que le président Essebsi a promis d’effacer du paysage juridique.…  Seguir leyendo »

May’s municipal elections in Tunisia had many commentators speculating about the future of the country’s ongoing democratic transition. The results were roughly in line with expectations, with the “Islamist” Ennahda taking 27.5 percent of the vote, the “secular” Nidaa Tounes taking 22.5 percent and independent candidates taking 28 percent. At the same time, voter turnout, at 35.5 percent of registered voters, was disappointingly low.

Nonetheless, most observers agree the prospects for democratic transition in Tunisia are much better than they are for Egypt or Libya. Indeed, some have come to see the contrasting trajectories among post-Arab uprising countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as inevitable.…  Seguir leyendo »

As they went to the polls in the first ever free local elections in the Arab world after Lebanon, the Tunisian people offered their neighbours in the Maghreb and Europe a lesson in democratic politics. Those who voted inflicted heavy losses on the coalition of two political parties which has ruled the country for just over three years. The lay Nidaa, founded in 2012 by president Beji Caid Essebsi lost one third of its electors (900,000), its partner the Islamist Nahda, led by Rachid Ghannouchi,  half (50o,000). Independent lists won a plurality of votes, 32.9%. Hope resides in the fact that 47% of new municipal councillors are women and 37% are under 35.…  Seguir leyendo »

A supporter, right, of an independent local party distributes election leaflets in l’Ariana, outside Tunis, 0n May 4. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

On May 6, Tunisia held its first democratic local elections more than seven years after the collapse of the authoritarian regime. While these elections signify an important step for local governance, the intense period of candidate recruitment that preceded them also offers a unique window into party decision-making.

During the two months before the elections, I conducted more than 40 interviews with party leaders at the national and local level and candidates from partisan and independent lists to explore how they recruited candidates. The results hint at why some parties and lists garnered more votes and how politics may be changing.…  Seguir leyendo »