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The Tunisian Political Landscape: Between Consensus and Conflict

Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies| 2018-03-27 16:01:00 | 199 vue


During the first three years after the revolution, Tunisia suffered from intense political conflict due to partisan and ideological rivalries. These conflicts paralyzed national political life and hindered the realization of the revolution’s objectives and popular expectations, especially in the fields of employment and development. It was crucial for the main political and social actors to assume their responsibility to bring the country out of the bottleneck it was in by launching a national dialogue. The democratic transition was smooth and peaceful, thus enabling the crisis to be overcome. The whole world was impressed by the Tunisian model, which was based on consensus. The Nobel Peace Prize for the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet came in recognition of the importance of this option and its role in sustaining the democratic transition. Tunisian democracy was saved in comparison with the rest of the Arab Spring revolutions, which are facing total collapse.

The consensus model is based on common understanding of the major issues related to the objectives of the revolution and the foundations of the democratic transition. The most important objectives are the fight against terrorism, smuggling and corruption, and achieving national reconciliation through bringing those involved in corruption to account and undertaking major reforms in all fields of governance (educational, administrative fiscal, judicial, etc.), while attracting domestic and foreign investment.It is also crucial to boost regional development in light of the need to maintain social cohesion, which calls for shared sacrifices and mutual concessions from various political and social actors.

The alliance between Ennahdha and Nidaa Tounessucceeded in securing a comfortable majority in the elected Assembly of People's Representatives in 2014, thus ensuring a comfortable majority for the formation of HabibEssid’s and Youssef Chahed’s governments and for passing important laws regardless of some differences in political views and priorities, which is normal not only between allies but even within a single party.The national consensus betweenEnnahdha and NidaaTouneshas now progressed from the stage of dealing with difficulties and overcoming crises to the stage of joint governance and joint action.

The consensus model in Tunisia was a strategic choice between two political forces, EnnahdhaParty and Nidaa Tounes.Those two parties’ popularity and their relationship made any confrontation between them a threat to the emerging Tunisian democratic experience and its path towards development.However, senior figures reached the conclusion that understanding and co-existence between them could be realized through peaceful democratic competition and the establishment of permanent coordination between them on various issues so as to achieve compatibility.The willingness to ensure economic development, investment and the continuation of the democratic transition has been placed as a priority.

At the time of the creation of the Government of National Unity on the basis of the Carthage Pact, it seemed that consensus and the prioritization of the national interest had overcome discord between the political parties and their interests.However, soon after signing the CarthagePact, conflicts between the signatories became apparent.

Today, a systematic and deliberate campaign to end the consensus between Ennahdha Movement and Nida Tounes has been launched. This campaign does not take into the higher national interest, social stability or the requirements of economic development.Furthermore,it does not take into consideration the regional and international contexts, nor the degree to which the entire world has shown appreciation for the Tunisian experience, based on reconciliation and dialogue between the two most popular and representative political forces.

Some parties are currently working to undermine this consensus and isolateEnnahdhaby announcing the formation of a "progressive front" composed of 43 deputies belonging to different parties. One positive step by this "progressive front" was that it contributed to returning the Free Patriotic Union (UPL) to the Carthage Pact.The UPLhas opted to coordinate with Ennahdha and Nidaa Tounes and is also supporting the Government of National Unity.

In conclusion, Tunisians are not so naïve and know very well which parties are working for their interests and which are fishing in troubled waters.


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Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies

The Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies is a research institution covering a large regional territory, including the Maghreb, Africa and Mediterranean countries, with a focus on Tunisian affairs. The Center has two main headquarters in London and Tunisia.