What’s next for Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution?



Tunisia’s main Islamist party, Ennahda, re-emerged as the dominant faction in Parliament on Monday as mass resignations from President Béji Caïd Essebsi’s secular party continued, largely to protest his son’s position as party chief, The New York Times reports:

The upheaval in the governing party, Nidaa Tounes, just over a year after itdefeated Ennahda in parliamentary elections and swept Mr. Essebsi to power in a presidential vote, had been brewing for months. The splintering is not expected to bring down the coalition government that Nidaa Tounes leads — indeed, a cabinet reshuffle was confirmed Monday evening despite the resignations — but the shift in power is likely to complicate politics going forward. The lawmakers kept their seats in Parliament but are unaffiliated with a political party for now.

Departing MPs said their fears Hafedh Caid Essebsi was seeking control of the party were reinforced on Sunday when he was appointed to its central committee as legal representative and general secretary. They have denounced what some regard as a return of the autocratic, nepotistic style of the Ben Ali era, Reuters reports.

“I decided with other eight lawmakers to resign on Monday…The total resigned is now 28 and the number may rise in coming days,” lawmaker Sabrine Ghoubatnini told Reuters.

“Our resignations come in protest against the policy of exclusion and the hereditary transfer of power to the president’s son,” she added.

Terrorism has hindered Tunisia’s economic progress and deeper political reform, The Economist notes:

But in 2015 the country became the first Arab state ever to be judged fully “free” by Freedom House, an American monitor of civil liberties, and it moved up a record 32 places among countries vetted by the Vienna-based Democracy Ranking Association.

“Sadly, that outcome remains a stark anomaly,” it adds, in a survey of the Arab Spring, five years on.

The mass resignations from Nidaa Tounes began with several founding members, who complained that the party had strayed from its original goals, The Times adds:

Among the most prominent is Mohsen Marzouk, who assumed the presidency of the party briefly last year… Mr. Marzouk, a longtime left-wing political activist who spent time in prison under the dictatorship of Habib Bourguiba, is largely credited with masterminding the electoral success of Nidaa Tounes and President Essebsi.

On Jan. 14 the U.S. Institute of Peace and the International Republican Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the Jasmine Revolution and examine the issues facing the country in the coming year and how the international community can help.

Tunisia is confronting the regional rise of violent extremism that has led to terrorist attacks in its own country, spotlighting the struggle to balance security and human rights, the USIP notes:

Its frail economy remains a danger to social peace, with unemployment even higher than when the Jasmine Revolution began. Many of Tunisia’s youth are especially vulnerable to these factors.

The panelists will consider these issues as well as specific decisions coming up in 2016, including the political situation, decentralization and economic reform. Join the conversation on Twitter with #Tunisia5.


Ambassador Faycal Gouia
Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia

Scott Mastic
International Republican Institute

Amy Hawthorne
Project on Middle East Democracy

Linda BishaiModerator
U.S. Institute of Peace

Joyce Kasee-Mills
U.S. Institute of Peace

Ambassador William B. TaylorOpening Remarks
U.S. Institute of Peace

January 14, 2016 | 2:30pm – 4:00pm


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