Tunisia Government and Politics
State and politics
The Arab Spring began with a popular uprising in Tunisia. The president since 1987, Zayn al-Abidin Ben Ali, resigned and fled the country in January 2011. According to AllCityCodes.com, the country is the only one where the upheavals in 2011 led to a democratic breakthrough.
Work on a new constitution began in February 2012, and this could finally be approved in January 2014. According to the constitution, Islam is state religion, while guaranteeing freedom of religion; however, the president must be Muslim. The executive power is shared between the president, who is the head of state, and the government, which is led by the prime minister. The president is elected in general elections for a term of five years and may be re-elected once.
The legislative power lies with Parliament, the Assembly of Representatives, whose 217 members are elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies every five years. The voting age is 18 years.
After elections to a Constituent Assembly were held in October 2011, regular parliamentary elections could be held in October 2014. In these, the secular party Nidaa Tounes (‘Call for Tunisia’), formed in 2012, won 86 of 217 seats. The second largest party with 69 seats became the previously banned Islamist party Ennahda (‘Paternity Birth’). Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of TS and its meanings of Tunisia.
Ennahda dominated the Constituent Assembly that was elected in 2011 and then formed a coalition government together with the secular parties Congrès pour la République (CPR) and Ettakatol. However, these two went back in the 2014 elections while two other secular parties, the Free Patriotic Union and the People’s Front for the realization of the aims of the revolution, moved forward. In 2015, a coalition government was formed, which included Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda.
The presidential election held in November and December of the same year became a battle between Nidaa Tune’s candidate Beji Caid Essebsi and the interim president since 2011, Moncef Marzouki (born 1945) from CPR. In the second round, 88-year-old Essebsi then received 56 percent of the vote. Essebsi, who was previously Minister, Ambassador and Speaker of Parliament under the representatives of Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali, thus became the country’s first President elected in free, democratic elections.
Unlike other countries affected by the Arab Spring, Tunisia has followed the trend towards democracy. However, this process was threatened by political violence in 2013. The Tunisian Quartet for National Dialogue played a crucial role in reaching a political solution and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
Nidaa Tounes has been characterized by internal contradictions. Defenders have formed new parties, which in 2016 resulted in Nidaa Tounes losing her position as the largest party in parliament. In 2019, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed (born 1975) left Nidaa Tounes and formed the party Tahya Tounes (‘Leve Tunisia’). The background is considered a power struggle between Chahed and Hafedh Caïd Essebsi (born 1961), President Essebsi’s son and Nidaa Toune’s party leader.
Beji Caid Essebsi passed away in July 2019, after which the presidential election which was announced for November was moved to September the same year. The voters in many ways showed their dissatisfaction with the established parties and politicians. The turnout was only 45 percent. The most independent candidate was Kaïs Saïed, lawyer with constitutional law as a specialty, and Nabil Karoui (born 1963), who owns a large TV company and who founded the political party Qalb Tounes (‘the heart of Tunisia’) before the election. In the decisive round of elections in October (in which turnout increased to 57 percent), Saïed won with 72 percent of the vote. He clearly received the strongest support among young voters, despite conservative views on issues related to homosexuality, the death penalty and women’s inheritance rights. Saïed’s reputation for being indomitable was considered to have contributed to his popularity.
Tunisia under Ben Ali
Tunisia was under Zayn al-Abidin Ben Ali an economically liberal but politically authoritarian country. The ruling party, which from 1988 to the 2011 revolution was called the Rassemblement Constitutionel Démocratique (“Constitutional Democratic Assembly”, RCD) had total dominance, despite the limited number of parliamentary seats reserved for the opposition of the 1990s. No free political debate was possible. Regime critics and human rights activists were at great risk of being imprisoned, and the media was tightly held. The authorities blocked a large number of Internet sites. Ennahda, believed to have been able to challenge RCD, was banned in 1991 and its leaders were either thrown in jail or forced to leave the country.
Thanks to the relatively good economy and standard of living, RCD and Ben Ali nevertheless enjoyed a relatively high level of public confidence. According to the old constitution, which was adopted in 1959 and revised in 1988 and 2002, the president had great power. In addition to being head of state, the president also held the highest executive power and was also commander-in-chief. Presidential elections were held every five years. A constitutional change in 2002 allowed the president to be re-elected unlimited times. Ben Ali won his post in power in 1987 by far in every presidential election.
The legal order in Tunisia is mainly codified according to the French pattern. The judiciary consists of different kinds of courts of appeal, appellate courts and a court of appeal. The death penalty remains in the legislation but is de facto abolished in 1991.
Heads of State
|1987-2011||Zayn al-Abidin Ben Ali|
|2014-19||Beji Caid Essebsi|