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Power Shift in Tunisia

Electoral Success of Secular Parties Might Deepen Polarization

SWP Comment 2014/C 54, 12.12.2014, 7 Pages Research Areas

Tunisia’s main secular party, Nidaa Tounes, emerged as the largest force in the October 2014 parliamentary elections. The party’s leader has also a high chance of being elected president in a runoff ballot in late December. The results risk to increase polarization between Islamists and secularists, especially if Nidaa Tounes forms an all-secular government coalition. It might also deepen frictions between the country’s marginalized regions and the richer Tunis and coastal belt. Already, the success of Tunisia’s main secular party has triggered protests in the poor south, as some people accuse Nidaa Tounes of rejecting more conservative sections of society and criticize its close associations with some former members of Ben Ali’s regime and the business sector. These ties and vested interests are likely to make it more difficult to launch structural economic reforms. They also risk to foster alienation, especially among young Tunisians, and might trigger radicalization. Europe should continue to support Tunisia’s young democracy with financial aid as well as specific economic and security expertise, and, most importantly, promote cooperation between various ideological forces.