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.
Le nouveau gouvernement et président tunisiens représentent des forces politiques qui ont émergé lors des élections de la fin 2019, suscitant populisme, polarisation et tensions. Avec le soutien judicieux de l’Union européenne, la nouvelle classe politique devrait se concentrer sur l’économie et choisir la voie du dialogue et de la réforme administrative.
Deadlock within executive branch persisted, while rights groups denounced police repression. Parliament speaker and Islamist-inspired An-Nahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi 10 March joined calls for new national dialogue to address political crisis and recurrent disputes over constitution; move comes amid President Saïed’s refusal to swear in PM Mechichi’s new cabinet since Jan. Main trade union and political powerbroker UGTT, which has spearheaded calls for national dialogue, 26 March said Saïed had committed to participating in UGTT’s national dialogue. Meanwhile, MP Hassouna Nasfi, leader of parliamentary coalition La Réforme, same day said he had collected 104 of 109 signatures needed to hold vote of no confidence against Ghannouchi. Hundreds 6 March protested in capital Tunis to demand release of LGBTQI+ activist Rania Amdouni, after Tunis court 4 March sentenced her to six months in prison on charges of “insulting police”. In joint statement, dozens of human rights organisations and political parties in Tunisia and abroad – including France’s Human Rights League and Tunisian Organisation Against Torture – 16 March called for her immediate release, said 2,000 civil society activists were currently imprisoned and denounced “police and judicial downward slide”. Appeals court next day released Amdouni. President of secular Free Destourian Party and MP Abir Moussi along with dozens of supporters 9 March stormed Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) office in Tunis, accusing association of terrorism and demanding it be dissolved; Moussi had for weeks organised sit-in protest demanding IUMS dissolution outside organisation’s offices in Tunis and country’s second largest city Sfax. Police 30 March fired tear gas on protesters after hundreds tried to storm govt building in southern city of Tataouine to protest govt’s failure to provide jobs. In first presidential visit to neighbouring Libya since 2012, Saïed 17 March met newly sworn-in Libyan PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba and Presidency Council Chairperson Mohamed al-Menfi in Libyan capital Tripoli to discuss bilateral relations and trade.
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.
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.
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 unions keeping channels of discussion open.
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’un congrès cette année.
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 structure themselves.
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.
A 29 October suicide bombing in the heart of Tunis dealt a blow to much-improved security since the last violent jihadist attacks in 2015-16. In this Q&A, our Senior Analyst for Tunisia Michael B. Ayari says it has also hammered a new wedge into Islamist-secularist political divides.
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