Progress and Priorities in Tunisia: Tunisian Citizens Express Their Views

Friday, November 4, 2016

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Following a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Habib Essid, newly-appointed Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in August 2016 formed a unity government—the country’s seventh since the 2011 revolution. Upon taking office, PM Chahed announced his government’s priorities as fighting corruption and terrorism, promoting economic growth, and balancing the budget. In addition, negotiations among political parties and labor unions this summer culminated in the signing of the “Carthage Agreement,” which set out a framework for a more inclusive government and consensual reform priorities. With significant economic reforms and a framework for decentralizing government services and authority still forthcoming, however, most Tunisians continue to feel that the gains of the revolution have yet to meaningfully impact their daily lives.

As the transition progresses, local elections and decentralization are Tunisia’s next steps toward credible, representative governance at all levels. For the first time in their history, Tunisians will democratically elect the municipal and regional councilors whose decisions directly impact their communities. At the time this round of qualitative public opinion research was conducted in late August, the High Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE) had announced a municipal election date of March 27, 2017, but this date was subsequently indeterminately postponed. 

Since March 2011, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) has conducted regular qualitative research in Tunisia to provide political and civic leaders with objective information about citizens’ attitudes. From August 20 to 27, 2016, NDI organized its 16th round of research—the fifth round conducted since the 2014 elections—to gauge citizens’ opinions on the performance of the parliament and members of parliament (MPs), assess their views on some pressing matters facing the country, and ascertain their awareness of and expectations for the upcoming decentralization process and local elections.

Citizens participated in 12 focus group discussions across Tunisia, sharing their views on the following topics:

  • The direction of the country and priorities that affect citizens’ daily lives;
  • The performance of parliament and the extent to which it is fulfilling its key roles;
  • Awareness of and expectations for the decentralization process and its anticipated
  • impacts on the country, their region, and themselves;
  • Views on possible local council prerogatives and on various means of citizen engagement that could be used by local councils;
  • Views on the economy and what citizens feel needs to happen moving forward to address challenges in this area; and,
  • Views on corruption and what citizens feel needs to happen moving forward to addressmchallenges in this area.

Findings demonstrated that overall, citizens felt Tunisia was going in the “wrong direction,” voicing concerns of corruption and economic degradation. Respondents had a more positive outlook regarding security, citing the lack of terrorist attacks during the month of Ramadan for the first time since the revolution. Concerning the parliament, many respondents did not fully understand the role of parliament and felt less confident in the institution compared to a year before. Many respondents were also unclear on how the process of decentralization would work in Tunisia. However, once given an explanation of the process, respondents viewed the process favorably. 

For further findings and additional information, please refer to the full report, available in English and Arabic.  

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