Five years After the Revolution: Tunisian Citizens Express Their Views

Friday, April 1, 2016

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In January 2016, Tunisians marked the fifth anniversary of the citizen-led uprising that toppled the regime of authoritarian leader Ben Ali. More than a year after the parliament and president took office following elections in fall 2014, Tunisia’s elected leaders are endeavoring to address the country’s pressing economic and security challenges while consolidating its young democracy. The 217-member parliament, the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP), which first convened in December 2014, has made progress on several legislative priorities, but has also struggled with political infighting and a lack of resources and staffing. With significant economic reforms still forthcoming, most Tunisians continue to feel that the gains of the revolution have yet to meaningfully impact their daily lives. Amidst commemorations of the anniversary of the revolution in Tunis, demonstrations—strikingly similar to those in 2011—spread through the interior regions following the death of an unsuccessful job seeker in Kasserine.

As the transition progresses, local elections are Tunisia’s next step towards elected, 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 the research was conducted, municipal elections were expected to be held by the end of 2016; Chafik Sarsar, president of the High Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE), has since announced a date of March 27, 2017. Additional delays are possible, however, as an electoral law—which would set the framework for the election of local and regional councils—is still in progress. To bring the current electoral law in line with the constitution, the law would divide the entire Tunisian territory into municipalities, enabling all citizens to vote in municipal elections. The government is concurrently preparing legislation that will create a framework for the decentralization process, which it will submit to parliament in the coming months. The Code des collectivités locales [Law on local authorities] is expected to grant new prerogatives to heads of municipalities and to local and regional councils, but as the decentralization process will likely be ongoing for years, a limited number of powers may be devolved to local officials by the elections. 

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Author: National Democratic Institute
Publisher: National Democratic Institute
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