Tunisia's Budding Democracy Faces Its Biggest Test

Aug 26, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

The Tunisian parliament holds a session in November 2018.

General view of a session for the 2019 budget proposal in Tunis, Tunisia.

(YASSINE GAIDI/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


  • Tunisia is entering a critical two-month election cycle, with successive presidential and parliamentary elections that will determine the next government.
  • The executive branch's power over foreign and security policy will allow whoever wins September's presidential contest to shape Tunisia's future relationships in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Tunisians' deep disillusionment with the government, fueled by the country's chronic economic crisis, has driven significant political splintering, leading to a proliferation of independent candidates.
  • The plethora of voices will make policy direction on economic and security issues harder to gauge in the years ahead. 

In 2014, Beji Caid Essebsi became Tunisia's first-ever popularly elected president after the country famously ousted its authoritarian leader of 22 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Caid Essebsi was also the country's first leader to respect the new, limited role of the presidency per the country's 2014 constitution. But whether that precedent continues will now be up to his successor. Following Caid Essebsi's death in July, Tunisia's presidential elections were moved up several weeks to mid-September. The balloting will carry heavy regional significance because as the Arab Spring showed, Tunisia wields an outsized influence on its regional peers, and its results could very well dictate the long-term sustainability of its democracy....

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