The Tunisian Democratic Transition: A Critically Threatened Process

At a Glance:

The ‘good student’ of the Arab Spring is facing serious issues that are severely hampering its democratization process. Disengagement from public affairs is increasing as living conditions are worsening and political representatives fail to offer viable solutions. As old authoritarian practices persist, figures of Ben Ali’s era have resurfaced and are quickly gaining legitimacy on the political scene. In the light of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, Tunisia is at a crucial turning point of its history.

 

This paper outlines the entangled impediments to the Tunisian democratization process, arguing there can be no true democracy without a durable solution to the economic crisis, political stability, a thorough implementation of local governance, an efficient and transparent Constitutional Court, and a justice system reform that would entrench accountability, particularly for human rights violations.

 

This paper’s argument essentially relies on primary data gathered through interviews with Tunisian experts and civil society activists working on the aforementioned issues. A brief description of each interviewee is presented below. The aim of this paper is to assess the current reality of the Tunisian democratization process, and delineate the deficiencies that could deviate its evolution towards a return to an authoritarian regime.

 

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[1] Widely used expression for public officials’ disdain towards average citizens.

[2] http://nawaat.org/portail/author/mohammed-samih/

[3] https://www.albawsala.com/

[4] https://www.voaafrique.com/a/la-libert%C3%A9-mais-pas-la-dignit%C3%A9-huit-ans-apr%C3%A8s-la-r%C3%A9volution-tunisienne/4740924.html

[5] http://www.emploi.gov.tn/fr/lobservatoire/statistiques/population-en-chomage/

[6] For further information see: Akrimi, “Tunisia: How Economic Mismanagement Continues to Undermine the Democratic Process,” Brussels International Center, 2019, https://www.bic-rhr.com/research/tunisia-how-economic-mismanagement-continues-undermine-democratic-process.

[7] http://www.finances.gov.tn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=298&Itemid=449&lang=ar-AA

[8] Tunisia and the EU already have an association agreement dating back to 1995 that stipulates tariff free trade in industrial goods as well as some agricultural goods. However, the new agreement is far wider in scope covering agriculture, services, and vast regulatory guidelines covering everything from intellectual property to public procurement procedures to food health standards.

[9] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/774103/economie/accord-de-libre-echange-avec-lue-laleca-renforcera-la-dependance-de-la-tunisie/

[10] https://www.tunisienumerique.com/le-maintien-de-la-tunisie-dans-la-liste-noire-de-lue-des-pays-nonchalants-avec-le-financement-du-terrorisme-entame-la-credibilite-du-pays-expert/

[11] http://www.bsi-economics.org/752-bilan-eco-tunisie-postrevolution-fb

[12] http://afrique.le360.ma/tunisie/economie/2018/08/17/22457-tunisie-la-dette-augmente-de-pres-de-230-depuis-la-revolution-22457

[13] https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/01/13/en-tunisie-la-crise-economique-et-sociale-s-eternise_5241281_3212.html

[14] The inhabitants of the small provincial town have been collectively exploiting the oasis since 2011. Its turnover has exploded: the 2016 harvest has been estimated at around 700.000 euros.

[15] https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/tunisie-sous-le-soleil-de-bourguiba-essebsi-renonce-a-la-presidentielle-07-04-2019-2306245_3826.php

[16] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/nidaa-tounes-clan-hafedh-caid-essebsi-expulse-sofien-toubel-ons-hattab-abdelaziz-kotti-et-adel-jarboui-du-parti_mg_5cc9520ce4b0d123954c50f9 ; https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/nidaa-tounes-clan-toubel-decide-de-suspendre-l-adhesion-de-hafedh-caid-essebsi_mg_5cc8ae3ee4b0d123954bd238?utm_hp_ref=mg-hafedh-caid-essebsi

[17] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/776876/politique/municipales-partielles-en-tunisie-nidaa-tounes-presente-deux-listes-concurrentes-au-bardo/

[18] See : Akrimi, “Tunisia.”

[19] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/mag/749576/politique/tunisie-abir-moussi-portrait-dune-benaliste-convaincue/

[20] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/341314/politique/tunisie-groupe-nessma-collimateur-dune-ong-anticorruption/

[21] https://www.shemsfm.net/amp/fr/actualites_shems-news/210371/kais-said-le-coran-a-tranche-dans-la-question-de-l-egalite-dans-l-heritage

[22] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/sondage-elka-consulting-nabil-karoui-en-tete-talonne-par-kais-saied_mg_5ce290e2e4b09e0578080781

[23] Expression that gained popularity with the Tunisian revolution. Refers to a general rejection of the ruling class.

[24] https://nawaat.org/portail/2019/03/22/quand-youssef-chahed-entonne-le-vieux-refrain-de-lhomme-providentiel/

[25] “Endiguer la dérive autoritaire en Tunisie,” Crisis Group, January 11, 2018, https://www.crisisgroup.org/fr/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/tunisia/180-endiguer-la-derive-autoritaire-en-tunisie.

[26] http://kapitalis.com/tunisie/2019/03/06/tunisie-limpossible-election-des-membres-de-la-cour-constitutionnelle/

[27] https://democracy-reporting.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DRI-TN-Rapport-Cour-Constitutionnelle_2015_fr.pdf

[28] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/699667/politique/tunisie-dans-un-contexte-tendu-letat-durgence-prolonge-pour-la-derniere-fois/

[29] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/540772/politique/tunisie-polemique-sur-la-prolongation-de-letat-durgence/

[30] https://nawaat.org/portail/2017/10/06/reconciliation-administrative-decryptage-du-recours-de-lopposition-pour-inconstitutionnalite/

[31] http://www.businessnews.com.tn/les-denis-de-justice-constitutionnelle-en-tunisie,526,77696,3

[32] http://www.legislation.tn/sites/default/files/news/constitution-b-a-t.pdf

[33] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tunisia-politics/tunisian-president-wants-to-amend-constitution-to-dilute-pms-power-idUSKCN1R11R2

[34] Belhedi, “Disparités Régionales En Tunisie”.

[35] Béchir, Ounalli, Sghaier, Miloud, Laboratoire d’Économie et Sociétés Rurales, Institut des Régions Arides Médenine, Tunisie.

[36] https://nawaat.org/portail/2010/10/03/victoire-de-la-population-a-ben-guerdane/

[37] Béchir, Ounalli, Sghaier, Miloud, Laboratoire d’Économie et Sociétés Rurales, Institut des Régions Arides Médenine, Tunisie.

[38] Rapport du mois d’Avril 2019 des mouvements sociaux, suicides et violences, FTDES. See : https://ftdes.net/rapports/fr.avril2019.pdf

[39] Gafsa (11), Kairouan (9), Seliana (6).

[40] “Décentralisation en Tunisie : consolider la démocratie sans affaiblir l’Etat,” Crisis Group, March 26, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/fr/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/tunisia/198-decentralisation-en-tunisie-consolider-la-democratie-sans-affaiblir-letat.

[41] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/743677/politique/code-des-collectivites-locales-en-tunisie-le-ministre-mokhtar-hammami-sexplique-sur-les-retards/

[42] Al Bawsala recorded the entire process of public consultations pertaining to the Local Government Code. Available at http://baladia.marsad.tn/uploads/documents

[43] “Décentralisation en Tunisie.”

[44] https://www.lalibre.be/actu/international/tunisie-faible-participation-aux-premieres-elections-municipales-libres-5aef657ecd70c60ea6d6ba7c

[45] https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/SERIAL/95319/112171/F-313159060/TUN-95319.pdf

[46] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/546008/politique/tunisie-le-refus-de-proroger-le-mandat-de-linstance-verite-et-dignite-deja-conteste/

[47] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/754890/politique/tunisie-linstance-verite-et-dignite-a-rendu-public-son-rapport-final/

[48] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/26/tunisian-president-accused-of-complicity-in-torture-report

[49] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2014/12/28/archives-ivd-otim_n_6386458.html

[50] Rim El Gantri, “Tunisia in Transition: One Year After the Creation of the Truth and Dignity Commission,” International Center for Transitional Justice, September 28, 2015, https://www.ictj.org/publication/tunisia-transition-one-year-after-creation-truth-dignity-commission.

[51] Meaning “I will not forgive” in Tunisian dialect, Menich Msemah is a non-partisan movement created in 2015 to oppose the reconciliation law proposed by Beji Caid Essebsi.

[52] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/il-n-y-a-pas-de-volonte-politique-pour-renforcer-le-systeme-judiciaire-en-tunisie-deplore-raoudha-karafi_mg_5cd313a6e4b0a7dffcd05cb1?fbclid=IwAR1aQSxC6mm1fJ42ms8qgN7dH2Ury2Rl_xDrV0GIUS9owEjLexFBx41cveE

[53] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/tunisias-reparation-project-peril-say-truth-and-justice-commissioners#disqus_thread

[54] http://www.legislation.tn/sites/default/files/news/tf2017581.pdf

[55] http://www.legislation.tn/sites/default/files/fraction-journal-officiel/2016/2016F/066/Tf2016611.pdf

[56] http://www.legislation.tn/sites/default/files/news/tf2018501.pdf

[57] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/615101/politique/tunisie-beji-caid-essebsi-tranche-en-faveur-de-legalite-dans-lheritage/

[58] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/rapport-de-la-colibe-un-enjeu-historique_mg_5b717b84e4b0530743cba3a4

[59] http://www.businessnews.com.tn/bora-belhaj-hmida--je-suis-convaincue-que-le-projet-de-legalite-successorale-ne-passera-pas-pendant-ce-mandat,520,87830,3

[60] http://www.businessnews.com.tn/pour-avoir-ouvert-pendant-ramadan-un-proprietaire-de-cafe-devant-la-justice,520,87966,3?fbclid=IwAR27Jn4isCpjrBd8v32Nb-GSpA8mEraxpO6Mwh1JYuls6ZSqliXiiABIr1A

[61] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/04/tunisia-where-running-from-police-can-be-deadly/?fbclid=IwAR0q58MPVRxbbUT5CkrvujCODS9MHsPGRedsx-NhK2plw8TTU7J05Ms8roU

[62] https://nawaat.org/portail/2017/11/17/new-security-draft-law-portends-return-of-police-state-in-tunisia/

[63] https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/il-n-y-a-pas-de-volonte-politique-pour-renforcer-le-systeme-judiciaire-en-tunisie-deplore-raoudha-karafi_mg_5cd313a6e4b0a7dffcd05cb1?fbclid=IwAR1aQSxC6mm1fJ42ms8qgN7dH2Ury2Rl_xDrV0GIUS9owEjLexFBx41cveE

[64] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/tunisias-reparation-project-peril-say-truth-and-justice-commissioners#disqus_thread