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.
Political tensions fuelled by President Saïed’s power grab and subsequent policies risk sending a crisis-ridden Tunisia over the edge. Saïed should organise a national dialogue and return to a negotiated constitutional order. In response, international partners should offer new economic perspectives for the country.
Amid shrinking space for dissent, President Saïed unilaterally changed electoral rules ahead of Dec polls and tensions rose between interior ministry and police unions.
Opposition parties announced boycott of upcoming elections as Saïed issued new electoral law. Main opposition coalition National Salvation Front (which comprises Islamist-inspired An-Nahda party), and anti-Islamist, anti-revolution Free Destourian Party, 7 Sept separately announced boycott of legislative elections scheduled for 17 Dec, citing Saïed’s plan to unilaterally draft new electoral law. Saïed 15 Sept issued new electoral law, reducing political parties’ role by making voters choose individual candidates rather than party lists. Five left-wing parties 19 Sept also announced election boycott, denouncing Saïed’s “coup against the  constitution”. African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 22 Sept ruled Saïed’s 2021 decision to suspend parts of 2014 constitution violated African human rights charter, ordered return to constitutional democracy within two years.
Crackdown on dissent persisted, tensions ran high between interior ministry and police unionists. Saïed 16 Sept issued decree criminalising spreading “false information and rumours” online, with prison sentences of up to ten years; international NGO Reporters without Borders 20 Sept said decree “threatens press freedom” and aims to “create a climate of fear”. Police 19, 21 Sept questioned An-Nahda leaders Rached Ghannouchi and Ali Larayedh over terrorism allegations; Ghannouchi decried move as “attempt … to eliminate a political opponent”. Clashes 1-2 Sept erupted as security forces violently removed sit-in tents installed in Tunis airport by police unionists to protest Saïed and Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine’s alleged plan to bring together all police unions into single structure; about 200 police officers 28 Sept protested in Sfax city to demand release of eight police unionists detained 23 Sept for alleged involvement in clashes.
Amid economic crisis, govt and social partners agreed on public sector wages. After annual inflation rate reached 8.6% in Aug, govt and main workers’ union (UGTT) 15 Sept agreed on 3.5% increase in public sector wages; move could facilitate International Monetary Fund rescue program. Hundreds 25 Sept protested in Tunis against shortages of some foodstuffs, especially sugar and milk, caused by country’s inability to pay for imports.
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...
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...
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...
If the [Tunisian] government (...) can’t channel populist concerns about sovereignty, there risks to be a lot of instability and protests.
There is tension between the [Tunisian] police and the judiciary [about ISIS militants]. The police say it’s because the judges are terrorists themselves.
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...
Tunisia faces multiple economic and social challenges following the suspension of parliament and the dismissal of the prime minister. This current state of emergency could fuel political turmoil and violence in the country. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to maintain bilateral cooperation with Tunisia and offer further economic incentives.
On 25 July, Tunisia’s President Kaïs Saïed invoked the constitution to seize emergency powers after months of crisis. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Riccardo Fabiani says compromise between Saïed and his parliamentary opponents remains possible, but so does grave violence.
Despite a marked decline in jihadist attacks in Tunisia since 2016, the government persists with repressive and unfocused counter-terrorism measures. The Tunisian authorities should make criminal justice and security reforms to prevent an upsurge in violence.
Tunisia’s new government and president represent political forces that emerged in late 2019’s elections, stirring up populism, polarisation and tensions. With judicious support from the EU, the new political class should focus on the economy and choose a path of dialogue and administrative reform.
Tunisia’s new president risks heightened tensions and instability as he aims to tackle worsening socio-economic conditions. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU, as Tunisia’s main trading partner, to prevent strife by accommodating Tunisia’s will for greater economic self-determination.
Le premier tour de l’élection présidentielle anticipée tunisienne aura lieu ce dimanche 15 septembre. Selon l’analyste principal de Crisis Group sur la Tunisie, Michael Ayari, les risques de déraillement du processus électoral et de violences sont réels.
The decentralisation process is polarising Tunisia and risks fueling social and political tensions. In order to fulfill its promise – to reduce socio-regional inequalities and improve public services – all sides must compromise on a new understanding of decentralisation that includes strengthening state services nationwide.
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.