Tunisia’s democratic transition is often hailed as the only real success of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, yet the country continues to confront violent extremism, economic strains, and institutions weakened by years of authoritarian rule. The U.S. Institute of Peace works directly with Tunisians to conduct analysis and nurture sustainable programs that improve governance and strengthen civil society. It trains mediators and facilitators on dispute resolution, guides dialogues to improve community-police relations, and assists with the institutionalization of police reform.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on the Current Situation in Tunisia.
The story by now is well known. Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in December 2010 sparked an unprecedented wave of protests across Tunisia and the broader region. Less than a month later, the country’s longtime dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled to Saudi Arabia. That was 10 years ago today. And while Tunisia is often lauded as the “lone success story” of the uprisings that swept across the region, its democratic transition remains in limbo. A decade later, Tunisians have seen hard-won improvements in political freedoms, but a lagging economy and sclerotic politics have stunted the realization of many of the protesters’ demands—and kept them in the streets.
As the Arab Spring’s birthplace and its sole fledgling democracy, Tunisia represents an encouraging yet incomplete victory against authoritarian rule and violent extremism. Tunisia’s progress since the revolution in 2011 makes it an important democratic partner in a volatile region. However, a persistent economic crisis, political disaffection, and the inherent difficulties of a major political and social transition continue to threaten the country’s stability. Elections in late 2019 swept in a new mosaic of smaller political movements reflecting the public’s deep dissatisfaction with the status quo and the stalled transition. This broad array of new parties has struggled to form a cohesive government capable of overcoming complex partisanship.
Since uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, Tunisia has long been regarded as the lone democratic success story. But nearly 10 years later, volatile party politics and authoritarian legacies continue to plague the transition. The October 2019 election cycle, marked by low voter turnout, demonstrated Tunisians deep disenchantment with the political class for its failure to address the grievances that sparked the ouster of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. After the elections, a government was not formed until February 2020. But months later, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned over allegations of conflicts of interest. In recent weeks, the political landscape has shifted rapidly. USIP’s Leo Siebert examines the political wrangling and Tunisia’s post-election political struggles.
Despite the degree of stability that Tunisia has achieved since its 2011 revolution, there are still obstacles to democratic consolidation, as well as unaddressed issues that threaten social and political stability—such as growing economic disparities, deepening mistrust between civil society and the government, weak local governments, and the difficult process of achieving meaningful institutional reforms.
Generation Change works with young leaders across the globe to foster collaboration, build resilience and strengthen capacity as they transform local communities.
In countries of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, USIP has pioneered a method to bring state officials, community leaders and citizens together to work out the roots of their problems and cooperatively rebuild security.