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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Tunisia

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قراءة في عربي

In January 2011, a spontaneous citizen-led movement toppled the regime of authoritarian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ushering in an unprecedented political transition. Tunisians subsequently voted on October 23, 2011 to elect a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution. For the first time in the country’s history, an independent election commission organized the poll and adopted measures to support citizen aspirations for free and fair elections. As they negotiated the constitution over the following three years, elected leaders repeatedly showed commitment to inclusion and compromise, despite several setbacks. Tunisia ratified a new constitution in January 2014, paving the way for elections for new leaders with a five-year mandate.

Elections in fall 2014—legislative elections on October 26, the first-round presidential election on November 23, and the presidential run-off on December 21—marked the culmination of the constitutional phase of Tunisia’s transition. The election commission ensured a smooth and well-organized process, election officials were highly competent, and voters demonstrated a strong familiarity with election day procedures, according to NDI’s observer delegation. Significant numbers of Tunisians participated in the election as voters, candidates, campaigners, observers, and election administrators. Throughout the fall, the election commission showed commitment to improving the process based on challenges encountered in previous elections.

While the progress achieved to date has been  a model for other countries in the region, Tunisia faces a wide array of challenges in assuring a steady, continuous democratic transition. In particular, newly-elected leaders must tackle the pressing challenges of unemployment, internal insecurity, and disparities in regional development—the issues that drove Tunisians into the streets in 2011. Political parties and civil society have a vital role to play in influencing decision-making to respond to these priorities as the transition moves forward.

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In the context of Tunisia’s ongoing political transition, NDI is leading programs to foster a more representative political environment where political parties compete effectively on behalf of citizens’ interests and translate them into policy solutions, and where civil society plays an active role in overseeing the political process. Since 2000, NDI has supported Tunisian democrats in their efforts to promote a more inclusive and participatory political environment.

Political Party Development

NDI assists political parties to build a democratic political system firmly anchored to principles of participation, inclusion, and accountability. Under the tightly controlled political context of the Ben Ali regime, politics was dominated by the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party, and the activities of genuine opposition parties were severely restrained. During this period, NDI led targeted programs to strengthen parties as proponents of a more open political system. Following the revolution, more than 160 political parties, benefiting from newfound freedoms, competed in 2011 to represent Tunisians in elected government. As parties prepared to contest the NCA elections, NDI supported them in establishing internal structures, defining platforms, recruiting members, planning campaigns, and forming coalitions.

Between the 2011 and 2014 elections, NDI continued to help parties improve their internal structures and processes, effectively communicate with citizens, and constructively engage with other parties. As the 2014 contests approached, NDI assisted parties in designing campaign strategies, developing responsive platforms, and training pollwatchers and candidates, particularly women and youth. NDI is currently working with parties in the new parliament as they develop policies and draft legislation that respond to citizens’ concerns.

NDI puts particular emphasis on assisting Tunisian youth and women in achieving greater responsibility within their parties. NDI has assisted women from several parties in developing women’s wings and enhancing their leadership skills. With support from NDI, for example, leading women from one party led a successful campaign to create a women’s commission and to adopt a 20 percent quota for women and youth in party structures. In the new parliament, NDI is supporting a multi-partisan group of women MPs to coalesce on priority issues and to strengthen their skills as legislators and representatives. NDI also convenes young party activists to work together across party lines to advocate for greater attention to youth concerns, including more participation in the political process. 

Strengthening Civil Society

Before January 2011, only a handful of Tunisian civil society organizations (CSOs) were active and independent. NDI supported the work of a small number of independent CSOs pursuing advocacy campaigns on issues related to women’s roles in Tunisian society. The Institute is now working with Tunisian CSOs to help them oversee the transition process and act as a counterweight to political parties and government, including through observation of election and political processes.

During the 2011 NCA elections, NDI supported a coalition of CSOs to field more than 2,000 observers in their first election monitoring effort. Ahead of the 2014 elections, NDI again helped Tunisian observer groups develop monitoring strategies, prepare observation forms and materials, and train observers. With NDI support, partner organizations deployed almost 10,000 election observers to oversee the 2014 electoral cycle. NDI also supported one CSO, Mourakiboun, to conduct advanced statistically-based observation, also known as a parallel-vote tabulation (PVT). Mourakiboun fielded more than 4,000 observers to cover a representative sample of polling stations across Tunisia for each of the three elections. Through analysis of the data, Mourakiboun was able to report voter turnout figures and national election results with a high degree of precision within hours of the closing of the polls. Mourakiboun’s numbers confirmed the official results reported by the election commission, bolstering the confidence of political parties and the general public in the election administration, process, and results.

In addition to supporting Tunisian observer groups, NDI deployed delegations of international observers to each of the elections to further promote their transparency and integrity and to demonstrate the support of the international community for Tunisia’s transition. NDI’s observers included elected representatives, regional specialists, election experts, and civil society leaders from more than 25 countries, many of whom shared lessons from their own countries’ democratic transitions.

In fall 2014, NDI also supported several Tunisian CSOs to organize Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts to encourage women and youth, particularly in marginalized communities where their turnout was low in 2011, to vote in the elections. In addition, NDI developed an interactive online voter guide as a tool for voters to identify their position in the complex political landscape surrounding the legislative elections.

Focus Group Research

To address the deficit of publicly available information on citizens’ views in Tunisia, NDI conducts qualitative public opinion studies on a regular basis. NDI shares the findings with political parties to assist them in developing targeted messages that resonate with Tunisians’ priorities. The Institute also holds roundtables with CSOs at the local level to promote broader discussion of the issues raised in the research. Through these focus groups, NDI has found that citizens consistently rank the economy and security as top areas of concern. Focus group respondents express frustration with the slow pace of political progress and with their elected leaders but remain committed to democracy.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Washington, D.C.
Angela Short, senior program officer
ashort@ndi.org

Tunisia Focus Group Research Story Photo Rotator 450 px
Following 2014 Elections, NDI Focus Group Research Shows Tunisians Optimistic About Democratic Transition03/16/2015
Presidential Run-off Lays Foundation for Transition to Representative Governance in Tunisia12/22/2014
NDI Delegates Arrive in Tunisia to Observe Second Round Presidential Election12/15/2014
With a Successful Election Process, Opportunity for Politicians to Respond to Citizens' Concerns in Tunisia11/24/2014
Delegates Join International Mission to Observe the Presidential Election in Tunisia11/13/2014
A Step Forward, Building a Democratic Foundation In Tunisia10/27/2014
Short-Term Observer Delegation Joins NDI Observation Mission in Tunisia10/20/2014
Tunisia Constitution Tour 382px
Tunisians Optimistic about Political Progress But Seek More Engagement05/22/2014
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2014 Madeleine Albright Lunch Celebrates Women's Political and Economic Empowerment05/20/2014
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IMF Director Christine Lagarde to Keynote NDI's Madeleine K. Albright Award Luncheon05/14/2014
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NDI Welcomes Tunisian National Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar05/08/2014
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Tunisian Youth Focus on Building Blocks of Party Organizing05/06/2014
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Middle East Parliamentarians Discuss Legislating, Budgeting and Women’s Political Participation in Washington, Richmond Visits03/07/2014
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Tunisia's Aswat Nisaa to Receive NDI's 2014 Madeleine K. Albright Grant02/28/2014
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Statement by Leslie Campbell Before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs: "Transition at a Crossroads: Tunisia Three Years After the Revolution"12/04/2013
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Tunisia Campaign School Helps Aspiring Politicians across the Middle East and North Africa05/08/2013
Tunisians Frustrated by Political Infighting, Lack of Progress12/20/2012
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Young North African Party Members Experience U.S. Election Campaigns and Voting11/20/2012
Youth Party Members From Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to Witness U.S. Elections Firsthand11/01/2012
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International Visitors Share Experiences on Organizing Debates10/22/2012
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Published Publication Title Author
12/22/2014 Preliminary Statement of the NDI Observer Delegation to Tunisia's 2014 Presidential Run-Off Election
Statement
National Democratic Institute
11/24/2014 Statement of the NDI Observer Delegation to Tunisia's 2014 First-Round Presidential Election
Statement
National Democratic Institute
10/27/2014 Statement of the NDI Observer Delegation to Tunisia's 2014 Legislative Elections
Statement
National Democratic Institute
09/15/2014 Joint Statement of the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute Pre-Election Delegation to Tunisia
Statement
National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute
04/17/2014 Public Opinion Research – Citizens of Tunisia Express Their Views
Public Opinion Survey
National Democratic Institute
03/21/2014 Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly Gender Assessment
Report
National Democratic Institute
03/06/2014 Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
12/04/2013 Statement by Leslie Campbell Before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs: "Transition at a Crossroads: Tunisia Three Years After the Revolution"
Statement
Leslie Campbell
10/23/2013 Increasing Women’s Political Participation Through Effective Training Programs: A Guide to Best Practices and Lessons Learned
Training Manual
National Democratic Institute
06/24/2013 Prioritizing Patriotism: Tunisian Citizens Express Their Views
Focus Group Report
National Democratic Institute
05/08/2013 Campaign Skills Handbook - Middle East and North Africa Regional Campaign Schools
Handbook
Shannon O'Connell, Samantha Smoot, Sally Abi Khalil
12/12/2012 Confidence Gap: Citizen Priorities on the One-Year Anniversary of the National Constituent Assembly Elections (Tunisia)
Focus Group Report
Nicole Rowsell and Asma Ben Yahia
07/27/2012 Promises Vs. Performance: Tunisian Attitudes Toward Government and Elected Leadership
Focus Group Report
Nicole Rowsell, Asma Ben Yahia
05/01/2012 Women's Political Participation in Tunisia after the Revolution, Findings from Focus Groups in Tunisia
Focus Group Report
Gabriella Borovsky and Asma Ben Yahia
04/03/2012 Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Citizen Election Observers and Monitors
Declaration
02/17/2012 Final Report on the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly Election
Report
National Democratic Institute
01/26/2012 Revolution to Reform: Citizen Expectations on the One-Year Anniversary of the Tunisian Uprising
Focus Group Report
Nicole Rowsell, Asma Ben Yahia
10/31/2011 Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women's Political Participation (Now available in Burmese)
Manual|Handbook
Julie Ballington
10/24/2011 NDI Tunisia Preliminary Election Statement
Statement
National Democratic Institute
09/30/2011 Framing the Future: Citizen Attitudes about Electoral and Constitution Drafting Processes
Focus Group Report
Nicole Rowsell, Asma Ben Yahia