Tunisia

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

Deteriorated Situation

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 [2014] 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.

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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