In the wake of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, NDI is leading programs to foster a more competitive and representative political environment where political parties compete effectively on behalf of citizens’ interests, 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
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 time, NDI led targeted programs to strengthen parties as proponents of a more open political system. In post-revolution Tunisia, more than 160 political parties are benefitting from newfound freedoms and competing to represent citizens in elected government. In a short timeframe, these parties are establishing internal structures, defining platforms, recruiting members, competing in elections, forming coalitions and learning how to negotiate the contours of a new constitution within the NCA.
NDI works to assist parties with their efforts to ensure a democratic political system firmly anchored to principles of participation, inclusion and accountability. In the weeks following the revolution, NDI invited senior political leaders from other countries that had undergone a transition to democracy to share insights with Tunisian parties. As parties prepared for the NCA elections, NDI experts led consultations and workshops around the country on internal organization, strategic communication, campaign strategy, candidate training, women’s political participation and party pollwatching.
As the transition continues following elections, NDI’s programs aim to reinforce ties between parties and citizens through public forums and debate. Through both consultations with individual political parties and multiparty forums, NDI works to help parties improve their internal structures and processes, develop cohesive media and communications strategies, and effectively engage with citizens. As parties increasingly turn their focus toward the next elections, NDI is assisting them to design campaign strategies.
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, spearheading voter outreach efforts and enhancing their leadership skills. With support from NDI, for example, leading women from one party led a successful campaign to adopt a 20 percent quota for women and youth in party structures and to create a women’s commission. NDI also leads seminars for young party activists to empower them to work together 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. NDI implemented a nationwide initiative to support CSOs’ efforts to monitor the 2011 NCA elections. With the Institute’s assistance, a coalition of CSOs fielded more than 2,000 observers to monitor voting across the country. Following the 2011 elections, NDI has continued to support civic organizing through regular local roundtables to engage citizens on their core concerns. The Institute also works with national associations that aim to monitor the political process, including the work of legislators on the constitution and future electoral framework. In advance of presidential and legislative elections anticipated for 2014, NDI is again supporting CSOs’ efforts to monitor electoral processes.
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 they celebrate expanded freedoms of association and expression. Despite the challenges facing the country in its transition, Tunisians remain committed to democracy and seek new avenues for political participation between elections.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Nicholas Collins, Program Officer