Tunisia: Changes and Challenges of Political Transition

For 23 years, a combination of harsh repression and impressive socio-economic development in Tunisia ensured a certain level of stability of Ben Ali’s regime. However, on 14 January 2011, after several weeks of anti-government protests, the President fled the country, revealing the fallacy of the ‘Tunisian model’. While the departure of Ben Ali is an important step towards Tunisia’s political change, the fate of its democratic transition remains uncertain. In light of these changes and challenges, this paper first assesses the factors underpinning the former stability of Ben Ali’s regime; it then investigates the causes of its underlying unsustainability, culminating in the anti-government popular uprising in December 2010-January 2011 and the removal of Ben Ali; finally the paper evaluates the prospects for a real democratic transition in Tunisia, by highlighting the main political and socio-economic challenges that confront the country.

Documento prodotto nell'ambito del progetto MedPro (Mediterranean Prospects), finanziato dal settimo Programma quadro dell'Unione europea. Versione rivista pubblicata in: Silvia Colombo and Nathalie Tocci (eds.), The Challenges of State Sustainability in the Mediterranean, Roma, Nuova Cultura, settembre 2011, p. 59-99 (IAI Research Paper 3).

Dati bibliografici: 
Brussels, MedPro and Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2011, 29 p. (MEDPRO Technical Paper ; 3)
ISBN/ISSN/DOI: 
978-94-6138-100-2
Data pubblicazione: 
19/05/2011

Introduction
1. Behind the Veil of Stability of Ben Ali’s Regime (1987-January 2011)
   1.1 Tight and systematic control over political life
   1.2 Weak opposition forces
   1.3 Social policy as a tool of legitimacy and control
   1.4 The EU’s reluctance to promote real political change in Tunisia
2. Explaining the Unsustainability of Ben Ali’s Regime
   2.1 The tacit social contract breaks
      Dramatic rise in youth unemployment
      Growing regional disparities
      Erosion of the middle class
      Inadequate and ineffective economic policies
   2.2 Widespread corruption and the regime’s control over the economy
   2.3 Mobilisation from below: Spontaneous versus organised political mobilisation
3. The Challenges Ahead
   3.1 The interim government
   3.2 Security-related challenges
   3.3 Constitutional reform and elections
   3.4 The role of political parties and other civil society groups
   3.5 The role of al-Nahda
   3.6 Socio-economic problems
4. Possible Scenarios for the Future
References

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