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The Politics of Protest in Tunisia

Instrument in Parties’ Competition vs. Tool for Participation

SWP Comment 2015/C 13, 05.03.2015, 8 Pages Research Areas

The compromise that was reached between the Tunisian Islamists of Ennahda and old regime players in the fall of 2013 made it possible to adopt a new constitution in early 2014, hold elections by the end of that year, and form a national unity government by February 2015. It also ended a period of intense confrontation in the streets, which had threatened to plunge the country into chaos and civil strife. Yet, protests are liable to rebound, as the parties that have formed the government lack a common vision that could reconcile their mutually hostile grassroots. They have also failed to stem demonstrations for social justice and equitable development in the country’s deprived regions. Sustainable stabilization will require that political parties cease to perceive bottom-up mobilization as a tool they can deploy against adversaries, or as a security threat that needs to be contained. Rather, they should recognize its potential to broaden citizens’ participation and be a corrective that can lead to more effective governance.