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.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Angela Short, senior program officer