Tunisian Democracy 10 Years after the Revolution: A Tale of Two Experiences

Laryssa Chomiak
Content Type
Working Paper
German Development Institute (DIE)
At the 10-year anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution, which toppled decades of dictatorship and repositioned discussions about democracy across the Middle East and North Africa, the democratic transition in Tunisia is in flux, or rather at an impasse. On the one hand, Tunisia is celebrated as the lone democratic success story of the 2011 Arab Uprisings, based on multiple cycles of free and fair elections. On the other hand, serious domestic political agitation over the last decade, coupled with deep structural inequalities and a rise in public perceptions of corruption in government, has nearly derailed its course towards democratic consolidation and stability. Democratisation in Tunisia has hinged on the widely celebrated mechanism of consensus among political adversaries in parliament, and among key political and civil society actors. Yet, instead of achieving consensus on critical political and economic-structural reforms, compromise-based arrangements have fallen apart due to intense party infighting, regular resignations of governments, and enormous public pressure resulting from a stagnating economy and lack of vision for comprehensive and equitable economic reform. The effect has been sustained infighting over economic and social policy, which in turn has resulted in diminishing public trust in political parties and new democratic institutions, an all-time low level of satisfaction with the government’s performance and a significant rise in contentious politics, particularly between 2019 and 2021. The proliferation of micro-parties (209 registered political parties for a population of 11.8 million) has resulted in confusion among the electorate, while the economic reality of a suffocating international debt crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has rendered levels of public trust in government to an all-time low.
Reform, Democracy, Arab Spring, Revolution, Transition
Political Geography
Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia