President Kais Saied’s steady dismantling of Tunisian democracy and authoritarian takeover—which has included shuttering the parliament, using military courts to try civilians, and repressing political opponents and media figures—has continued despite American and European demands, notes Carnegie analyst Sarah Yerkes.
To put real pressure on Saied, the United States should take two steps, she writes:
First, Congress should re-jigger U.S. assistance to Tunisia. It should suspend all direct assistance to Saied’s government, and instead support organizations and institutions committed to transparency and freedom such as political parties, civil society groups, and the media (which is increasingly under threat). Saied’s leaked NGO law, which could come to fruition in the coming months, could outlaw foreign funding of civil society, making it harder to support the actors working to advance democracy in Tunisia, so this funding would be even more crucial before the window closes. …..
- Second, the United States should develop a menu of “carrots” to entice Saied to take concrete action to rewind his authoritarian actions. Both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power stated that should Tunisia return to a democratic path, “our support can increase.” The amounts currently at stake are not enough to sway Saied, but offering much more substantial sweeteners could succeed in both helping to address Tunisia’s economic and social challenges and giving Saied a win that could allow him enough confidence to open the political space.
National Endowment for Democracy (NED) partners (above) discuss scenarios for the future of Tunisian democracy.