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

Record-low turnout in legislative elections increased President Saïed’s political isolation amid worsening economic and social situation.

Legislative elections saw record-low turnout, opposition urged Saïed to step down. Only 11,22% of voters cast ballots in legislative elections held 17 Dec. In response, main opposition coalition, National Salvation Front, 18 Dec said Saïed had no legitimacy and should quit office, called for mass protests to demand early presidential elections. Election commission in following days announced only 23 candidates had secured seat; remaining 131 seats to be decided in run-off elections expected early Feb.

UGTT hardened stance toward Saïed, IMF postponed decision on rescue package. In clearest challenge to Saïed to date, powerful labour union UGTT 3 Dec openly questioned electoral process, saying it had “no colour and taste” as result of new constitution; also denounced “lack of transparency” on reform program negotiated with International Monetary Fund (IMF). UGTT 26 Dec threatened street protests and sit-ins in rejection of 2023 austerity budget and 28 Dec announced two-day strike by transport workers in late Jan. In last-minute move, IMF postponed board meeting scheduled for 19 Dec on four-year $1.9bn rescue package for Tunisia, citing need to give govt more time to finalise reform program. Amid inflation nearing 10% and shortage of many food commodities, European Investment Bank around mid-Dec approved €220mn loan including €150mn in emergency food support. Algeria 1 Dec pledged $200mn low-interest loan and $100mn financial assistance to Tunisia.

In other important developments. Police around 19 Dec detained Islamist-inspired party An-Nahda VP, former PM Ali Larayedh, over terrorism allegations. An-Nahda immediately denounced political attack to cover “failure” of polls, and party supporters 23 Dec protested in front of justice ministry in capital Tunis to demand Larayedh’s release.

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In The News

27 Jul 2021
There has been no talk about Tunisian institutions or keeping up any kind of democratic governance; it's just being portrayed as people who have liberated themselves from... Washington Post

Elham Fakhro

Former Senior Analyst, Gulf States
23 Jul 2020
There have been extremely difficult moments in Tunisia, where the country seemed to risk tumbling into the worst scenario. But there have always been politicians and unio... Voice of America

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia
16 Feb 2020
Le vote [du parti islamiste Ennahda] reflète les tensions au sein du parti. Notamment concernant la succession de Rached Ghannouchi à sa tête qui doit se décider lors d’u... Le Croix

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia
26 Jan 2020
If the [Tunisian] government (...) can’t channel populist concerns about sovereignty, there risks to be a lot of instability and protests. VOA

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia
25 Feb 2018
There is tension between the [Tunisian] police and the judiciary [about ISIS militants]. The police say it’s because the judges are terrorists themselves. BuzzFeed

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia
14 Jan 2018
There is a fertile ground for social anger [in Tunisia] that needs to be taken into account. What will be interesting in the next days is how the youth movements will str... The New York Times

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

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Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

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