Tunisia’s Bumpy Road to Democracy

Tunisia’s bumpy road to democracy: Johannes Kadura/ Representative of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Tunisia


On July 25, Tunisian President Kais Saied invoked Article 80 of the 2014 constitution to dismiss Hisham al-Mashaishi’s government and suspend parliament, a reaction to mass protests against ineffective economic and social policies of the post-revolution government.  COVID-19 has further depressed the country’s labor market. Growing public protests have often been deemed illegal and severely suppressed. Although a wide range of the community welcomed his steps, the ruling majority described it as a coup.

What’s Saied’s plan?

Said does not seem in a hurry to clarify his plan. However, if the economic and security situation remains fragile with no end in sight, the high cost of living and lack of prospects could lead to increased social unrest. While the risk of violence is minimal, terrorist operations have the potential curb what was the only democratic transition in the Arab world after the 2011 Arab Spring. In this case, the army can intervene to seize power and “restore order”.

Tunisian international relations

During Saied’s recent visit to Tunisia, the European Union viewed the events July 25th with skepticism, because Saied did not explain his reasons or present any plan since the revolution. Many Tunisians value Germany more than other foreign countries. Germany was also the first country to provide large sums to support Tunisia’s democratic transition —and raised it to the status of strategic partner. However, the transition process is long and difficult due to constraints from economic problems and terrorist attacks, particularly the dysfunctional electoral system established in 2011. Since 2011, Tunisia has become a breeding ground for conflict between gulf states, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, and Qatar — with Turkey’s support — on the other. Since 2011, Qatar and Turkey have tirelessly supported the Islamist Ennahda party, while the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have provided financial assistance to the late President Beji Caid Essebsi and his party, Nidaa Tounes.

The fall of Ennahda in the 2019 elections has been a real blow to Turks and Qataris. Since his election, Saied has consistently reiterated that “there is no room for interference in the country’s choices that stem from the will of the people.”  This comment was also in response to the G7 statement on September 6, 2021, in which the group called on Tunisia to respect its constitution by quickly appointing a new head of government.

Germany must also motivate German and European companies to actively participate in Tunisia’s urgent economic reconstruction, which will be beneficial to all partners because of the geopolitical, social and economic importance of invest in Tunisia’s future success.

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