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A stable Tunisia remains critical for security in North Africa as a whole. Yet its proximity to Libya leaves it exposed to dangerous spillover, as shown by March 2016’s deadly attack by ISIS militants on the border town of Ben Guerdane. Even with ISIS’ relative decline in the Levant and Libya, there is a risk that some of the thousands of Tunisian foreign fighters could return and exploit simmering social unrest. Local elections planned for May 2018, the first since the 2011 revolution, will reveal whether the stability that has endured since the 2013 political deal between Tunisia’s two main parties can hold. Crisis Group works to identify conflict triggers ahead of the coming elections, including tensions over economic and socio-regional inequality, and aims to broaden the political consensus established in 2013.

CrisisWatch Tunisia

Unchanged Situation

Political tensions and societal rift between Islamists and anti-Islamists continued to grow, fuelled by struggle between President Essebsi and PM Chahed. Far-left and Arab nationalist coalition Popular Front 4 Feb called for govt’s resignation ahead of late 2019 legislative and presidential elections to ensure transparent poll and accused govt of covering up Islamist party An-Nahda’s alleged involvement in killing of two leftist and Arab nationalist leaders in 2013. An-Nahda President Rached Ghannouchi 17 Feb said Chahed could be forced to resign before elections, signalling that parliament could pass vote of no confidence. Tunis court 6 Feb sentenced in absentia secretary general of Essebsi’s party Nida Tounes, Slim Riahi, to five years in prison for involvement in affair of bouncing cheques. Thousands of teachers 7 Feb demonstrated in capital Tunis to demand bonuses and better working conditions. Public sector union UGTT reached agreement with govt on salary increases 9 Feb, called off general strike planned for 20-21 Feb and ended months-long strikes in secondary schools. Libyan militia demanding release of Libyan in prison in Tunisia on drug-related charges 14 Feb kidnapped fourteen Tunisian oil workers in Zawiya city near Libya’s capital Tripoli; hostages freed 17 Feb in unclear circumstances. EU Commission 13 Feb kept Tunisia on black list of 23 countries highly exposed to money laundering and terrorist financing. Tunis court 9 Feb sentenced seven people to life in prison for 2015 attacks that killed 60 in Tunis and Sousse, sentenced others to six months to sixteen years in prison, and discharged 27; prosecutors said they would appeal.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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 structure themselves. The New York Times

Michaël Béchir Ayari

Senior Analyst, Tunisia

Latest Updates

Strengthening Institutions in Tunisia

Tunisia is in limbo between two different forms of government, deepening socio-economic difficulties for many citizens and putting the country’s security at risk. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group proposes that the EU and its member states use their influence to persuade Tunisia actively to promote economic growth and speed up government restructuring.

On the Politics behind Tunisia’s Protests

Analysis on the politics behind the scenes of the ongoing protests in Tunisia.

Originally published in The Arabist

En Tunisie, « le risque d’une dérive autoritaire »

Pour les chercheurs d’ICG, Michaël Ayari et Issandr El-Amrani, le pouvoir tunisien doit parachever la transition démocratique sept ans après la chute de Ben Ali.

Originally published in Le Monde Afrique

Endiguer la dérive autoritaire en Tunisie

La polarisation politique et la nostalgie, illusoire, d’un gouvernement centralisé fort planent au-dessus du septième anniversaire du déclenchement de la révolution tunisienne de 2011. La coalition au pouvoir devra mener les réformes qu’elle avait promises, mettre en place la Cour constitutionnelle et organiser des élections municipales, déjà reportées à de nombreuses reprises, si elle veut que la transition tunisienne reste l’exemple d’une transition réussie dans le monde arabe.

Also available in العربية, English

Stemming Tunisia’s Authoritarian Drift

As dangerous signs of political polarisation mark the seventh anniversary of the 14 January 2011 Tunisian uprising, Crisis Group’s Tunisia Senior Analyst Michaël Béchir Ayari reflects on a growing but illusory popular nostalgia for strong, centralised government to get a grip on the country. He argues that to save the Arab world’s sole successful transition since 2011, the governing coalition should enact promised reforms, create a Constitutional court and hold long-delayed local elections.

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