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Seeing Tunisia’s Civil Society During Un-civil Times


Tunisia’s dramatic democratic reversals since July 2021 warrant an in-depth reflection on how and where its once-promising democratisation momentum went wrong. Much attention is given to the top-down demolition of democratic institutions by the country’s (democratically) elected President Kais Saied. However, just as the popular revolution that ousted the dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the subsequent democratic transition was to a great extent a bottom-up process, so civil society too is an important piece of the de-democratisation puzzle. In a bid to compare and contrast trajectories of degeneration and regeneration, the paper explores the contributions and constraints of Tunisian civil society vis-à-vis Tunisia’s difficult experiment with democratisation.