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.
On Monday, Tunisians voted on a new constitution proposed by President Kais Saied that vastly expands the powers of his office. While turnout was low, many Tunisians “support what the president is doing … they are voting based on one specific objective, which is to improve economic and social conditions,” says USIP’s Elie Abouaoun.
A year after Tunisian President Kais Saied began a series of moves that expanded presidential powers, a new constitution further empowering the presidency has been approved by referendum. Amid a dire economic crisis, many Tunisians expressed support for Saied’s moves, as the promise of the 2011 uprising evaporated over the last decade. While the referendum passed with 94 percent of the vote, only 30 percent of Tunisians participated. Once heralded as the sole democratic success of the Arab uprisings, Tunisia’s democratic future trajectory is more uncertain than ever following the constitutional referendum.
Last July, Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament in what many observers called a bloodless coup. Saied’s supporters — of which there are many — claim that this extreme executive action was necessary to root out rampant government corruption and ineffectiveness. Polling at the time showed widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of parliament and the prime minister; many Tunisians felt that their high expectations following the 2011 popular revolution were not realized and that the country was heading in the wrong direction.
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.
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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.