Transition Process in Tunisia
National Consultation in Tunisia
14/11/2013 The International Institute of Debate Elyes Guermazi
Contact Details : Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Cell Phone : +21624086101 Website : www.iidebate.org
Presentation of the organization:
The International Institute of Debate is a recently launched initiative with the head office in Tunis, Tunisia. The concept of the organization originated from the current societal and political environment in the region. As Tunisia undergoes political transformation and transition, certain segments of the population are notably disenfranchised- particularly youth and women. IIDebate believes that future leaders in the area frequently lack the methods, means, and/or skills to make themselves heard and spread their message. A loosely connected network of NGOs is trying to mitigate this problem. One of the primary aims of the initiative, therefore, is to facilitate and encourage collaboration among organizations working on related topics, such as the debating culture and the democratic transition process. Local civic society will benefit from combining the skills and efforts of multiple existing organizations.
Overview of the situation in Tunisia:
In the context of the ongoing transitional period, the Tunisian government is currently facing difficulties in managing the dissatisfaction and civil unrest among the citizens for several reasons. First, the government is losing control of the security. Several terrorist attacks have occurred recently in different regions of the country, resulting in the injury and death of military and police force personnel. Also, two prominent politicians have been assassinated in the past year, leading to protests and strikes across the country. These events have had a significant negative impact on Tunisia’s economic rating and stability. Second, the advances in freedom of expression that occurred following the Arab spring uprisings have been halted or reversed, as many journalists, musicians, bloggers and politicians have been arrested for publicly voicing their personal opinions. It can be said that freedom of the press, in all forms of media, has improved with the current political system, compared to the old regime. There is much greater transparency in the information shared than ever would have occurred prior to the revolution. At the same time, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) has struggled significantly to finish the constitution, and many representatives resigned before the work was completed. However, formal discussions are ongoing between the government and the opposition in order to resolve the current situation. In the end, the political parties are working now to determine a new date for Tunisia’s second free election, which was supposed to occur in October 2012.
Description of the national consultation:
During 17 Days, The International Institute of Debate team started a national consultation to understand the habit and opinion of the young citizens toward the political situation in our country and their role in the democratic transition. We used different tools of investigation, including social media surveys, physical consultation in partnership with civil society organizations, and investigative support from international organizations partners (The National Democratic Institute). The IIDebate survey was completed by 86 youth citizens from four different places (Tunis, Manouba, Ariana, Sfax). The NDI survey was completed by over 100 Tunisians between the ages of 20 to 35 years, and a greater geographic region was sampled. The overall report was divided into seven parts:
1. Understanding of the concept of ‘democracy’:
Our online and physical surveys asked the youth citizens to share with us their personal definition(s) of democracy, resulting in a wide variety of responses. Only 9,3% were unable to define democracy. Analysis of results shows that some individuals defined democracy as the freedom of expression, while others said that it’s the fact of being free to elect the person that we consider the best leader, and most accepting the others opinions. Some youth think that the objective of democracy is to give enough authority to the citizens in order to take decisions and be part of the political process.
2. Tunisia as a democratic country:
One of the most important questions asked was, “Do you think that Tunisia is a democratic country?”. 78,5% of the respondents did not agree, and only 21,5% agreed. As an explanation, some reflected that we couldn’t understand the real meaning of a democratic country so we are applying it in a wrong way. Some others believed that we are in same situation of the old regime, since only one political party is leading the country and taking advantage of their power. Also, they added that since we don’t have separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government, nor do we have a constitution, Tunisia cannot be considered a democratic country. Respondents that reported that Tunisia is a democratic country affirmed that belief via the fact that we have equality and freedom of expression. They additionally referenced the free democratic election that happened on the 23rd of October, 2011, in which the citizens chose their
representatives in the National Constitutional Assembly. They also added that Tunisia is a young democracy that is still in the process of adaptation, so it might take time to become a smoothfunctioning, internationally-respected democratic country.
3. Role of youth in the democratic transition:
I don't know
This graphic represent the statistics that we did in the end of the research. While we were talking with youth, 65,12% of them felt that they play an important role in the democratic transition through involvement in civil society organizations, participation in the media, or even simple protestation. 20,93% of them think that they are excluded from the political life and the government should invite them to brainstorm and share their own ideas, but that this can’t occur through protestation and strikes. The rest of the respondents are uncertain, and may not wish to get involved in the political life. One respondent reflected that, “We should leave politics to the politicians and we don’t have to get involved in it”. According to the NDI report, the majority of youth participants continue to cite freedom of expression as the main accomplishment since the revolution - in some cases, the only accomplishment. However, concerns about artists and journalists being jailed or facing less formal intimidation was noted. While mentioned in Tunis as well, youth in Jendouba and Kasserine were particularly concerned about what they view as lack of economic opportunities. Several cited that government positions are being filled based on favoritism and proximity to the Ennahda- led government, and that without economic development, democracy has little value.
4. Laws in process are in favor of the Tunisian government:
Laws in process are in favor of the Tunisian government
13,95% Yes 50% 36,05% No Other
Results indicated that 50% of the youth believed that the laws hadn’t changed compared to the old regime. The old regime’s law favored the government, and after the Arab spring, the transitional government is making disappointingly slow progress in updating the constitution. However, 36,05% believe that the current laws are fair enough and don’t side excessively with the government.
5. The Freedom and the equality of the election process in Tunisia:
Freedom and the equality of the election process in Tunisia
13,95% 29,05% Yes No Don't know 57%
Most (57%) of the respondents agree that the elections are not free and equal. They said that the corruption among the political parties existed since they were conducting illegal ways to get the voices of the rural regions citizens. Adding to that; some of the political parties were using the cause of Islam as a concept that they will adopt which increased their chance to have more voices voting in their favor. 29,05% of participants shared with us their belief that elections are free and equal compared to the old regime elections. According to them it’s the citizens who chose their representative without any influence and in a diplomatic way.13,95% didn’t have any opinion.
6. Law exemption of the youth participation in electoral and democratic processes:
Law exemption of the youth participation in electoral and democratic processes
6,97% 29,06% 63,97% Yes No Other
63,97% of respondents believed that the current laws exclude the youth from the political life. One example cited was the current legal age limitation to register to run for higher office in Tunisia- 35 years old. In addition, the absence of youth in the government provides evidence that youth are excluded. On the other hand, 29,06% say that intentional, systematic legal exclusion on the basis of age doesn’t exist, but may occur due to lack of experience and practice of the youth in politics. Also, the current political situation doesn’t encourage youth to get involved. 6,97% of respondents didn’t express any opinion.
7. The future of Tunisia in the eyes of youth :
The National Democratic Institute supported us during this consultation since they helped us to reach some youth in two specific regions of Tunisia: Jandouba & Gasrine.
Views about future elections
Views about elections were mixed. Some young participants felt that it is too soon to judge whether the next elections will be conducted in a free and transparent manner, while others noted that the interference of political parties (from selection of ISIE candidates to potential campaign-period violence) would likely affect the process negatively. Skepticism about the electoral process and growing frustration with all political options were mentioned as reasons young people may not vote.
Views about avenues for participation
While the majority of young (18-34)) participants agreed that having positive discrimination for youth participation would be a good idea, this sentiment was almost always followed by a concern for qualified decision-making. Therefore, some questioned the role young people could
play if given positions of power, while others felt that the older and more experienced leaders could play an advisory role. Young participants were more inclined to want to get involved in civil society organizations, out of the view that political parties are self-interested and not focused on solving problems of citizens. When asked how they defined political action, an overwhelming majority only mentioned taking part in demonstrations and protests.
Picture from the physical consultation: