Stimson in the News

Ellen Laipson’s Blog in Fikra Forum on Tunisia’s Democratic Growing Pains

in Program

From a distance, Tunisia’s upcoming elections appear to be a positive culmination of steady progress from the revolt of late 2010 to the establishment of a constitutional democracy. Tunisia is the last “Arab Spring” country standing, and its capacity to weather the challenges of political assassinations, labor unrest, and violent confrontations between Islamic extremists and the security services of the state, yet stay on course, wins international respect and admiration. The largely peaceful dynamics among the two largest competing political forces – the Ennahda party and Nidaa Tounes – are also noteworthy, and Tunisia’s cultural disposition to consensus over national interests has been on display in the campaign season.

But up close, the story is not quite as sweet. That impulse for consensus is reported to being turning off voters, who now see the two parties not really providing clear alternatives. The way Ennahda created a coalition with small liberal parties when it governed from late 2011 to early 2013, and then ceded power to a technocratic government has amply demonstrated Ennahda’s conviction to avoid alienating and polarizing Tunisian society. But that impulse for accommodation has now left some Tunisian voters and analysts wondering if it has gone too far, and that it could lead to a poor turnout at the polls.

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