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

Political tensions and scattered unrest continued ahead of presidential election due by October; govt pursued closer ties with China and Iran as EU support wavered. 

Social unrest continued amid uncertainty over presidential vote. Citizens took to social media to denounce hardline police tactics after football fans clashed with police 2 June at Hammadi Agrebi Olympic Stadium in Radès town outside capital Tunis, with sixty arrested and dozens wounded. Inhabitants of Rouai town in Jendouba governate 11 June demonstrated against lack of drinking water; police same day temporarily detained three members of NGO Tunisian Water Observatory, preventing them from covering protests. Presidential election date still unknown despite President Saïed and electoral authority being required to set electoral calendar by late July, at least three months before end of Saïed’s current mandate.

Tunis moved closer to Beijing and Tehran amid fraying relations with EU. Saïed 28 May-1 June participated in Ministerial Conference of Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing, resulting in announcement of bilateral strategic partnership in economic, technical and cultural fields. Govt 15 June abolished entry visa requirements for Iranian and Iraqi tourists following Saïed’s late May visit to Tehran. Tensions with European actors continued to grow; despite strong partnership with Rome, Saïed declined invite to 13-15 June G7 summit in Italy, sending PM Hachani instead. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 24 June said Tunisia “very important and longstanding partner” but expressed concern over govt’s “drive closer to Russia, Iran and China”.

In another important development. With Italian support, UN 19 June officially recognised Tunis’ search and rescue zone in Mediterranean Sea as newest measure for limiting migrant flows to Europe.

Continue reading

In The News

25 4月 2024
Italy is trying to reinforce the bilateral relationship to convince Tunisia to continue to collaborate on [irregular migration]. Jerusalem Post

Riccardo Fabiani

Project Director, North Africa
19 5月 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

Latest Updates

Our People

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.