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.
De plus en plus clivant, le processus de décentralisation tunisien risque d’alimenter les tensions sociales et politiques. Pour qu’il tienne ses promesses de réduction des inégalités socio-régionales et d’amélioration des services publics, il doit faire l’objet d’un nouveau compromis prévoyant notamment le renforcement des services territoriaux de l’Etat.
President Essebsi died 25 July bringing forward presidential elections due later in year to Sept, and Islamist militancy continued to threaten security. Following “severe health crisis” in June, Essebsi was discharged from hospital 1 July in “normal health”, but readmitted 24 July and died next day, aged 92, of repetitive faintness. Same day Parliament Speaker Mohamed Ennaceur sworn in as interim president, to hold post for no longer than 90 days; first round of presidential election planned for 15 Sept. Legislative elections to be held 6 Oct. Essebsi 20 July had refused to ratify electoral law amendments that parliament passed in June that would have imposed tougher eligibility criteria for presidential candidates and which would have barred presidential front-runner businessman Nabil Karoui. Prosecutor 9 July charged Karoui with money laundering, and imposed on him asset freeze and travel ban. Govt 4 July said death toll from 27 June attacks in capital Tunis claimed by Islamic State (ISIS) had risen to two. Police in Tunis 2 July surrounded Islamist militant and alleged mastermind of June attacks, who detonated his suicide vest, killing himself but no others. Citing security concerns, PM Chahed 5 July banned women from wearing full face veil in public institutions. ISIS 17 July released video allegedly filmed in Tunisia calling for militants to carry out attacks.
Le maintien ou le départ du chef du gouvernement tunisien, Youssef Chahed, est depuis plusieurs semaines au cœur d’une crise politique. Si les principales forces politiques et syndicales échouent à trouver un compromis, la formation d’un gouvernement dit de technocrates pourrait permettre de renforcer la confiance et d’apaiser les rancœurs.
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.
Corruption and clientelism are undermining democratic transition in Tunisia, a unique success story after the 2011 Arab uprisings. To put the country back on track, the government should launch a national economic dialogue including established business elites and emerging provincial business leaders.
To counter a growing jihadist threat, Tunisia must finalise, publish and implement a viable strategy that prioritises prevention, tackles the roots of radicalisation and appropriately enhances security forces' capacities. Success will require better institutional coordination, the appointment of a new counter-terrorism commissioner on a ministerial level and public consultations to win broader national consensus.
Polarisation over transitional justice after the 2011 fall of Tunisia’s old regime is obstructing basic progress. Accounting for past actions cannot include the early idea of “revolutionary justice”, but can become a tool to reconcile citizens, tackle corruption and give the economy a much needed new impetus.
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 structure themselves.
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.
Analysis on the politics behind the scenes of the ongoing protests in Tunisia.
Originally published in The Arabist
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
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.