Tunisia ‘headed in wrong direction’, poll finds



At least 10 senior leaders quit Tunisia’s ruling party on Wednesday as a wave of resignations in a dispute over the role of the president’s son continued to sap the secular movement’s strength, Reuters reports:

Defections among lawmakers over the past week have cost Nidaa Tounes its parliamentary leadership, causing it to fall in number of deputies behind its Islamist rival Ennahda. They do not pose an immediate threat to the government, which includes Ennahda, but may complicate efforts to make sensitive cuts to public spending and kickstart an economy hobbled by three major Islamist militant attacks last year….

A faction led by Mohsen Marzouk, one of its founders, has accused another group led by the president’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, of trying to take control of the party. Marzouk’s allies say they fear a return to the autocratic and nepotistic style of the Ben Ali era.

With continued economic stagnation and terrorism weighing heavily on the public, 83 percent of respondents believe Tunisia is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new poll released today by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research:

With few tangible economic improvements, 86 percent of those polled rate the economy as bad or somewhat bad.  Only 36 percent have a favorable opinion of government performance, with 1 percent highly favorable.  … Nearly one year into the government’s tenure, 62 percent of Tunisians are dissatisfied with the performance of the government.  However, Tunisians have not yet lost faith in their newfound democracy; there remains significant support for a democratic system of government. 

Reflective of overall pessimistic feeling throughout the country, 33 percent feel that Tunisia is not a democracy.  Also, limited economic opportunities and a fluid security situation make 56 percent feel prosperity is somewhat more important than democracy.  Yet there remains support for a democratic form of government.  Forty-eight percent believe democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, despite frustration with the transition. 

“The challenges the government faces in improving the economy are made greater by the public’s current worry about terrorism,” said Scott Mastic, director of Middle East and North Africa programs at IRI, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.

“The issues of economic opportunity and support for democracy go hand in hand.  Tunisia’s ability to implement reforms, increase growth and create jobs, allowing citizens to experience the dividends of democratic governance, is paramount,” he added.

The poll was conducted with support from the Middle East Partnership Initiative of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near East Affairs.

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