Tunisia, home to the first and arguably most successful of the 2011 Arab uprisings, appears to be backsliding in its transition to democracy. In mid-2021, President Kaïs Saïed consolidated powers in the executive through a series of steps widely regarded as unconstitutional. Opposition is growing though the president retains a strong social base. The polarisation could threaten stability, particularly as it intersects with persistent budgetary woes and popular discontent over economic and other inequality. Crisis Group works to help resolve these tensions in a country that remains critical for security in North Africa as a whole.

CrisisWatch Tunisia

Unchanged Situation

Thousands protested against deteriorating economic situation, authorities continued preparations for Oct presidential elections, and EU increased support toward migration control.

Protestors rallied against worsening economic and social situation in Tunis. Nearly 2,000 people 3 March demonstrated in capital Tunis to protest against deteriorating social and economic outlook, in show of force organised by Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT). Several trade unionists claimed that break between UGTT and President Saïed’s regime is far from complete; UGTT move may be bid to extract concessions from Saïed in run-up to Oct presidential elections, in particular to obtain pay rises in public sector. Following Feb local elections, 279 local councils held their first meeting on 1 March; councils next day designated members of regional councils in each governorate. A national council comprising members of regional councils is due to be set up shortly; although its prerogatives are not legally clear, it will likely deal with economic and development issues.

Crackdown on dissent continued in lead-up to Oct elections. Mondher Zenaidi, a former minister under former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in the 2000s, 6 March published a Facebook post criticising Saïed’s record and implying that he would run in Oct presidential elections; judiciary two days later issued international arrest warrant against him in connection with corruption case linked to privatisation operation in 2005. Independent High Authority for Election and Central Electoral Commission for Russia 15 March signed a memorandum of cooperation in Russia’s capital Moscow; cooperation officially aims at establishing joint cooperation to support electoral processes.

Migrants continued to flee Tunisia by boat, EU stepped up migration support. Media reports 15 March revealed 34 migrants reported missing off the south-eastern coast of Tunisia, 34 others rescued, and two found dead. European Commission 14 March disbursed 150mn euros in budgetary support for Tunisia to improve migration control, even though Tunis failed to meet EU’s own eligibility criteria.

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In The News

19 svibnja 2023
The Europeans feel that they are on the front line of instability in North Africa and in the Mediterranean. Euronews

Riccardo Fabiani

Project Director, North Africa

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Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

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