POMEPS Brief #27 — Tunisia’s Volatile Transition to Democracy (PDF)
On October 9, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work shepherding a peaceful transition of power. This accolade highlighted Tunisia’s success creating compromise and building coalition, while avoiding much of the violence and authoritarian backsliding of its neighbors. What lessons can be learned from its example, and what challenges still await this fledgling democracy? POMEPS Briefing 27 “Tunisia’s Volatile Transition to Democracy” brings together 20 essential articles published by the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Monkey Cage that illuminate this small but important state’s internal politics and regional impact.
The National Dialogue came at a pivotal moment for the nascent Tunisian democracy. As trust in its first democratically elected government waned, the nation had to navigate the resignation of the Troika government, without following Egypt’s path to anti-Islamist authoritarianism. The parliamentary and presidential elections of 2014 marked a democratic milestone as the centrist Nidaa Tunis took over from Islamist Ennahda, then — to the frustration of some members in both parties — brought it into a coalition government. The contrast between the fate of Islamists in Tunisia and Egypt on one hand and Turkey on the other is marked.
However, despite these notable achievements, the Tunisian democracy has failed to represent a significant portion of the population and overall confidence in the democratic process is slipping. Many of the revolutionaries who initially participated in the uprisings remain disenchanted with their options for representation. Meanwhile, citizens in the interior continue to struggle with staggering levels of unemployment, as elites work the outdated system to their advantage. Though it was the main motivator for the revolution, the economic situation in the country has made little progress. Citizens must also balance their desire for personal freedoms with the need for security, and recent terror attacks have done little to assuage these concerns.
POMEPS Briefing 27 “Tunisia’s Volatile Transition to Democracy” offers important background and analysis by leading scholars on the state’s complex relationship with the democratic process.
POMEPS Project Coordinator
November 6, 2015