Libmonster ID: U.S.-1339


Candidate of Economic Sciences

Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Tunisia, "Arab spring", democracy, Ennahda, terrorism

Of particular interest is Tunisia, the only country where the" Arab Spring " ends with the transition to democratic forms of government. At the same time, it is important to note that the process is far from over, and a rollback to authoritarianism is still possible. The variety of political regimes in the modern theory of the state is reduced to two main types: democratic and anti-democratic (totalitarian). The issues of their formation and transition from one form to another have always attracted close attention of specialists. The revealed general patterns do not exclude the peculiarities of their manifestation in each individual country. Back in the first half of the 19th century, the French political figure and historian A. de Tocqueville, in his treatise "Democracy in America", noted that it is not necessary "to consider all democratic peoples as copies created in the image and likeness of the American people, and we will try, in the end, to discern the features of their own national features"1.

The Tunisian experience is important because it can provide an answer, at least partially, to the question that most political scientists and practicing politicians are interested in and clearly formulated by the American political scientist and sociologist S. Huntington: "Is there a fundamentally irreversible, long-term, global trend towards the spread of democratic political systems around the world, as Tocqueville believed and James Bryce. Or, political democracy is a form of manifestation limited, with few exceptions, to a minority of rich and / or Western societies. Or perhaps, for a significant number of countries, political democracy is a temporary phenomenon, periodically alternating with various forms of authoritarian rule " 2?


The transition period that began in January 2011, when President Ben Ali left Tunisia for Saudi Arabia, was accompanied by a certain tension in society, individual acts of political violence, and further degradation of the socio-economic sphere. At the same time, the country has gained free elections, pluralism, political struggle, and citizen participation in public life.3

The Constitution of the Tunisian Republic was adopted on January 26, 2014. In October 2014, Tunis held elections to the Parliament - the Assembly of People's Representatives (ANP), which were won by the Nidaa Tunis (Call of Tunisia) party, whose leader Beji Caid Es-Sebsi, following the results of the presidential elections on December 21, 2014, became the new head of state. A new government was formed, which had to solve numerous problems, the first of which were overcoming socio-economic stagnation and ensuring the safety of citizens.

The events of December 2010-January 2011 were immediately described as the beginning of a long period of chaos, the collapse of the socio-economic sphere, and the degradation of political institutions. Tunisian analyst S. G. Carrey, a former partner of the well-known consulting company McKinsey, wrote that "we are witnessing the beginning of a tsunami, next to which the first waves of 2011 will seem like a slight disturbance."4. It seemed that taming this wave was possible only by force, by the appearance of a new strong man in power. Fortunately, Tunisians have managed to resist the temptation to resort to a "strong hand", and democratic forms of government, despite significant costs, show a certain resilience.

The relatively peaceful transition was made possible primarily by the national dialogue conducted under the auspices of the Quartet formed by trade unions represented by the General Tunisian Union of Workers (VTST), the business community united in the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Crafts (TSPTR), the Bar Association and the League for Human Rights. Serious efforts have been made to bring positions closer together and reduce the polarization between the troika Government formed by the Islamist Ennahda Party, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol (Democratic Forum for Freedom and Employment), and the secular opposition united under the National Salvation Front around Nidaa Tunis.

The international recognition of the Quartet's role in conducting the national dialogue was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. Moreover, the committee stated that the prize is awarded for the decisive contribution of the "quartet" to the construction of a pluralistic democracy.

It should be noted that this fully corresponds to the position of Russia. The Russian President's Special Representative for the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, said that

* James Bryce-English statesman, jurist, historian (author's note).

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there is only one way - a broad national dialogue without violence and dictates from abroad. We call on external players and the international community as a whole to follow similar approaches. After all, our common goal is to preserve all the progressive achievements of the Arab Spring and help the Arab peoples realize their aspirations for a better life. 5

Unlike Egypt, which chose military force to remove Islamists from power who came to it through elections, Tunisia was guided by a compromise between the government and the opposition, Islamists and secularists. The future head of the Tunisian Parliament, Mohamed Ennaser, said that the political class, economic and social actors, representatives of civil society and the country's elite have no choice but to overcome ideological differences, conflicts of interest, and rise to the level of their historical responsibility in order to build a common future.6

In this regard, the question arises: is there a "Tunisian difference" from other countries of the "Arab Spring"? Or, in other words, what helped Tunisia not to follow the Egyptian scenario and lay down relatively stable rules of the game based on the consensus of various, often opposing, political forces?

First of all, all experts pay attention to the historical features of the formation of Tunisia. It is very symbolic that in the office of the newly elected President there is a bust of Hannibal. This highlights that the official history of Tunisia began long before the Arab invasion.7 However, this alone cannot explain the peculiarities of the country's transition period.

On closer inspection, we can see that a combination of many factors contributed to the success of the national dialogue, despite the difficulties of the democratic transition process, which is far from over. A number of factors, according to Tunisian experts, are fundamental: the army is out of politics, the Confederation of Trade Unions that consolidated civil society, political leaders who managed to bring opposing points of view together in the interests of the country, the uncompromising state in the fight against jihadists, regional and international support for Tunisian efforts to stabilize the situation in the country8.


Located in the north of the African continent, Egypt and Tunisia share both similar features and distinctive features. First of all, a hybrid post-colonial regime was established in both states, combining a liberal economy and authoritarian politics.

What makes these countries stand out in particular? In addition to Egypt's significant demographic superiority and its important geostrategic position in the Middle East, this is the role and status of the army. While the Egyptian army is the backbone of security, economy and politics, the Tunisian armed forces are, firstly, insignificant in size, and secondly, they are emphatically neutral in relation to the political and economic life of the country. Their tasks were limited to the protection of State borders and State institutions in emergency situations. Only at special moments, such as the 1984 bread riots, did the army have to intervene to restore public order.

Even during the popular uprising against the Ben Ali regime, between December 17, 2010 and January 14, 2011, the army conditionally kept an equal distance from both the rebels and the security forces. Hence the popularity and belief that the army is the best defense against the repressive excesses of the police.

Tunisia is also characterized by its cultural, ethnic and religious homogeneity. This is a small country, urbanized since ancient times. Throughout history, the army only supplemented the power, gave it additional strength. The state, in turn, controlled the armed forces, anticipating and neutralizing the manifestations of military leadership. Hence the army's respect for the institutions of the state.

A special role in the peaceful course of the Tunisian revolution of 2010-2011. played by the chief of the general staff of the Tunisian army, General Rashid Ammar, who was able to say "no" to President Ben Ali, who demanded to suppress the protest movement. It was he who, on January 24, 2011, addressed a crowd of thousands of strikers outside the Prime Minister's office and declared: "1. We (the army) are loyal to the Constitution and will not go beyond it; 2. We are the guarantors of the revolution of the young and will ensure its favorable outcome; 3. We will not stop peaceful demonstrations, but they will not should lead to a power vacuum, as this may lead to the return of the dictatorship; 4. It is necessary to allow the government to work"9. Being at the height of his popularity at the time, and declared almost a national hero by the protesters, he refused their demands to lead the country and voluntarily resigned in 2013. The General's achievements and experience were not forgotten, and in January 2015, he was appointed military adviser to the newly elected President Beji Qaeda Es-Sebsi.

Tunisia did not follow Egypt in trying to solve the problems militarily. Moreover, thanks to the events in Egypt, Tunis realized the danger of military intervention in politics. After the events in Egypt and the overthrow of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, a political debate developed in Tunisia around the Egyptian scenario. Initially, the secular opposition was ready to support the military's actions, considering them as a response to the growing trend of monopolization of power by Islamists and the growing threat of plunging the country and society into the Middle Ages. However, during the debate, the opposition soon returned to the principled position of refusing to interfere with the army in politics. Tunisian Islamists, for their part, expressed solidarity with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and condemned the "military coup in Egypt." Gradually, public discussion of the Egyptian scenario allowed for a closer understanding of the situation.-

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zit points of view. This was extremely important for the political future of Tunisia.


The Trade union Confederation in Tunisia plays a role equivalent to the army in Egypt. The foundations of its strength are rooted in its history and organizational structure. Founded after World War II, VTST joined forces with the national liberation movement, represented primarily by the Neo-Destour Party. In the future, Neo-Destour remained the only party in the political arena, declaring itself the guarantor of national unity. In the absence of a pluralistic policy, the trade union Confederation has been a place of opposition and democracy education for many decades.

VTST is not only an organization of workers, but also an open structure for civil servants, teachers, doctors, managers, etc. The Confederation of Trade unions united both the poor and the middle class, i.e. almost the entire population. Representing the economic and corporate demands of various segments of the population and professions, the trade union confederation has become a kind of link between the state and society. At the same time, it is important to note that the VTST prefers dialogue, not confrontation. Even after the attack of militants of the League for the Defense of the Revolution, which is close to Ennahda, on the VTST headquarters on the ground and on individual members, the trade unions showed restraint and did not turn to open confrontation.

In recent years, VTST has become the most powerful civil society organization, supporting the opposition against the Troika government. It was the trade unions that put forward the idea of a national dialogue to find a solution to the economic and political crisis.

The economic crisis was reflected in rising prices, inflation, budget deficits, rising public debt, and a decline in investment activity. As for the political crisis, it manifested itself in a loss of confidence in the Troika Government, which failed to fully curb violence. In addition, his personnel policy, which is aimed not at attracting specialists, but at creating favorable conditions for supporters of the Islamist party (86% of new recruits to the civil service are supporters of Ennahda), has led to an erosion of the competence of the country's top leadership.

The economic crisis has caused significant damage to the country and pushed trade unions and employers to reach an agreement on forming a center of influence to oppose the troika government, which seeks to monopolize power. The VTST and TSPTR joined forces with the Bar Association and the Human Rights League, both of which had considerable political weight, to create a powerful counterweight to the Government by forcing it to negotiate.

The Bar Association played a crucial role in the fall of the Ben Ali regime with its statement of support for the rebellious people. The League for the Defense of Human Rights, established in 1977, the first association of its kind in the Arab world, has become a place for uniting various political and ideological trends around a common ideal - the fight against authoritarianism and the slide to dictatorship. These two associations are closely connected with the history of Tunisia. They embody the intellectual tradition and liberal policies inherited from the contacts of local intellectuals with Western democracies since the mid-19th century.

The ability of the Confederation of Trade Unions to mobilize various political forces and social movements, as well as its leading role in Tunisian society, was also confirmed by the celebration of Women's Day in 2012 and 2013, when thousands of women took to the streets and squares of cities. And this showed the authorities that the exercise of power is impossible without women. During the half-century of independent development, feminism has become widespread, primarily due to the reforms of education and family planning, despite the existence of conservative and traditionalist trends. It is generally accepted that women play a prominent role in achieving a historic compromise.10


The popular uprising against the Ben Ali regime was rightly considered a " revolution without leaders." Indeed, the uprising against the police dictatorship in Egypt and other Arab Spring countries without political leadership was spontaneous. And the complexities of the transition period have highlighted the need for leaders.

The political polarization that has intensified since the election of the Constituent Assembly has brought two major political figures to the forefront: on the one hand, Sheikh Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda Islamist movement and winner of the first democratic elections, and on the other, Beji Caid Es-Sebsi, a former Prime Minister and founder of the Appeal of Tunisia, a political party which has become the most important element of the secular opposition in less than a year. They had the courage to break the status quo and subordinate the immediate interests of their supporters, which were more calculated for the future, to the needs of democracy, not to succumb to the provocations of radicals from the opposition and conservatives from the government in order to unleash violence.

Both leaders were wise enough to recognize that in politics, no one has a monopoly on truth or virtue. They managed to rise above personal and partisan interests and began working together to bring the country out of the crisis. This has enabled a national dialogue, especially after the leaders ' one-on-one meetings in Algeria and Paris, which have brought the country's major political forces closer together.

This is evidenced by the removal of the mention of sharia law from the draft of the new Constitution and the adoption of art. I of the Constitution as amended in 1959, which considers Islam as the official religion of the country. R. Ghannouchi understood that " for many who sympathize with Ennahda, voting is necessary."

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for Islamists, a cultural choice rather than a political one"11. This, by the way, corresponds to the assessment of the election results given by the Russian researcher M. F. Vidyasova, who rightly noted that the "victory of Ennahda" in the October 2011 elections was caused not by the fundamental Islamist aspirations of society, but rather by such factors as public distrust of political parties, "martyrdom" image Islamists, their financial capabilities, ability to work with the electorate, etc. 12".

Without the influence of R. Ghannouchi, the rejection of Sharia law would have been impossible, and Tunisia could have been in the abyss of civil war. Tunisian analysts also noted his efforts to "Tunisify" Ennahda, which meant that Tunisian specifics were increasingly taken into account in the party's activities. 13 It was Ghannouchi who signed the road map as Ennahda's president, which included the resignation of the Islamist government, negotiations on the formation of a national salvation government, the completion of work on the constitution, and an agreement on the election of parliament and the president.

For his part, Beji Qaid Es-Sebsi used all his experience and authority to convince his supporters of the need for dialogue with Islamists, which was extremely difficult. Party leaders did not rule out even an alliance between their structures, if none of them won a victory that would allow the formation of a one-party government. Es-Sebsi managed to convince not only his supporters, but also Ghannouchi himself that no political party can lead the country alone and the era of one party's dominance must go away forever.

In addition to bringing the positions of the leaders of the main political forces closer together, the leaders of other parties and public associations also contributed to the success of the national dialogue, which is at the heart of the Tunisian historic compromise. Special mention should be made of the Secretary-General of the VTTA, Hussin Abassi, and the President of the TCTR, Wied Bouchamaoui, who literally imposed the need for national dialogue as the only way out of the economic and political crisis.

Mustafa Ben Ja'afar, the head of the constituent assembly and leader of the Ettakatol Party, an Ennahda ally in the government's troika, played an important role as a mediator between secular and religious forces.

Thus, thanks to the joint work of leaders of political parties and public associations, taking into account the lessons learned from the Egyptian experience, a coordinated solution was found to get the country out of the political and economic crisis.


Ben Ali's authoritarian regime was characterized by stability, police surveillance, and a brutal crackdown on the entire opposition, especially Islamists and Salafists who were considered terrorists. After the fall of the regime, the Transitional Government adopted an amnesty law, which allowed the release of about a thousand political prisoners. Among them were supporters of the Ansar al-Sharia movement, who were loyal supporters of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The leader of the movement, Abu Iyad, was released for two years. He managed to organize a congress of his supporters first in Tunis, and then in Kairouan, which later became one of the bastions of Islamic radicalism.

All this became possible also because R. Ghannouchi made the social base of Salafis a pillar of his party in exchange for the government's tolerance towards them. If there were only a few hundred Salafist supporters immediately after the revolution, by mid-2012 there were already more than 10,000, and Ennahda gave them the opportunity to organize. Violence in the country has become increasingly violent. Alaya Allani, a Tunisian expert on Islamist movements in the Maghreb, identifies three internal factors14 that explain the outbreak of violence:

- deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the country, which has led to an increase in the number of unemployed and disadvantaged segments of the population, from which Salafists are recruited;

- reduced security due to the failure of the Government to respond promptly and firmly to acts of violence, especially in poor areas of large cities;

- weak ideological basis, as the government for a long time could not decide on a development model for the new Tunisia, fluctuating between moderate Islam in a modern democracy and conservative Islam hostile to modernity. Tunisian experts have noted that Ennahda leader R. Ghannouchi promises a Turkish model, but acts in accordance with the Sudanese one and leads the country to Iran.15

The problems of Arab countries, including Tunisia, where Islamists came to power (regardless of the level of "moderation"), are that these authorities combine religion and politics. This lack of separation between religion and politics is an obvious problem in a liberal democracy. Christians have divided religion and state since the time when Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. Hence - the beginning of the movement of the Christian West to democracy. Mahomet, on the other hand, founded both a religion and an Islamic state.16

It is also important to note the role of an external factor, primarily Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. R. Ghannouchi stated that Al-Qaeda has no influence in Tunisia, and its leader Al-Zawahiri is"a disaster for Islam and Muslims." However, numerous observers noted that the surge in violence occurred two days after al-Zawahiri's call for the implementation of Sharia law in Tunisia. The then Interior Minister, A. Laaraed, did not deny a potential link between al-Qaeda and the Salafi Ansar al-Sharia movement, but he had no direct evidence of this.17

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The terrorists managed to establish themselves in mountainous areas on the border with Algeria. From here, attacks are carried out on soldiers and officers of the national army, contacts are established with Algerian and transnational terrorist networks, and illegal trade, including weapons, is conducted. Numerous charitable organizations have been established, under the cover of which hundreds of young Tunisians are sent to fight in Syria.

The murder of opposition figures Shokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi has become a point of no return in the history of post-revolutionary Tunisia. Under pressure from civil society, the country's leadership on August 13, 2013 recognized Ansar al-Sharia as a terrorist group that threatens the very foundations of statehood. From now on, war is declared on the jihadists. Resolute opposition to radicals and terrorists not only ensured greater security for citizens, but also contributed to the formation of conditions for economic growth, the restoration of tourist activity and the influx of both national and foreign capital. The State intends to put an end to terrorism by defeating their groups in the mountainous areas near the border with Algeria, as well as terrorist cells in the poor outskirts of cities.

For Europe and the United States, which have always considered Tunisia as a model country for the Arab world, overcoming the crisis phenomena in the socio-economic and political spheres would confirm the correctness of the course towards democratization of the Arab East. As the former head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Zh. Attali: "If the Arab Spring does not succeed in Tunisia, it will not succeed anywhere else." That is why Western leaders put pressure on Tunisian leaders to force them to engage in dialogue with their opponents. In Tunisia, the ambassadors of these countries have undoubtedly played an important role in bringing the views of political party leaders closer together, both through regular face-to-face meetings and during visits by top officials of their respective countries to Tunisia.

The instability in Tunisia raises understandable concerns in neighboring countries, and above all in Algeria, as jihadist cells are located on its eastern borders. Receiving R. Ghannouchi and B. K. Es-Sebsi, President Bouteflika of Algeria expressed readiness to cooperate with Tunisia to ensure regional stability.

The United Nations and international financial institutions, in particular the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have always supported Tunisia's efforts to meet its socio-economic challenges. They also welcomed the national dialogue and the historic compromise reached. The European Union has doubled its technical and financial support since 2011. The signing of the privileged Partnership Agreement with the EU opens up new prospects for Tunisia. The International Monetary Fund expressed its readiness to provide Tunisia with a loan of $500 million, and the World Bank agreed on the allocation of the second tranche to resolve the financial and economic situation in the country.

* * *

Many factors and actors have contributed to the success of the national dialogue, which culminated in a historic compromise that remains fragile and vulnerable. In the coming years, the main tasks will be to ensure security, socio-economic and cultural progress.

To do this, it is necessary to eliminate hotbeds of terrorism, reduce social and regional inequality by increasing employment and investment, and reform the sphere of education and culture. The implementation of these important tasks requires the coordinated participation of all political forces-civil society, Government, political leaders, military and international partners - which is absolutely necessary, as was the case when working on a new Constitution and forming a Government of national unity. Today, the situation in the economy remains very unstable: debt is approaching 50% of GDP, reduced investment, budget and foreign trade deficits, and falling tax revenues.

The return to Tunisia of hundreds of jihadists who are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq in the ranks of the Islamic State is, according to the Tunisian authorities, a threat to the stability of the country. That is why the future of the historic compromise depends on both improving the economic situation and ensuring security, including through international cooperation, especially with countries that have experience in the fight against terrorism.

Tocqueville A. de. 1 Demokratiya v Amerike [Democracy in America], Moscow, 2000, p. 338.

Huntington S. 2 The Third Wave: Democratization at the end of the XX century. Moscow, ROSSPEN, 2003, p. 38.

3 Enfin, un second tour! 06.12.2014 -

Karray N.G. 4 La prochaine guerre en Tunisie. Ceres editions. 2011, p. 12.

5 Interview of M. Bogdanov with RIA Novosti -

6 Parlement tunisien Tunisie: trois mots sur la carriere de Mohamed Ennaceur, nouveau president de l'Assemblee, 07.12.2014 -

7 htpp://, 11.02.12.


9 Le general Ammar, l'homme qui a dit non, 07.02.2011 - htpp://

Meddeb R. 10 La sempiternelle question saura-t-on faire? 10.01.2015 -

Draoui M.W. 11 Les motivations socioculturelles des electins d'Ennahda, 4.02.2013 -htpp://

Vidyasova M. F. 12 Jihad without war. Tunisian experience of modernization and political legacy of Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000). Vol. II. Kn. 2. Moscow, ISAA, IV RAS, 2012, p. 347.

Achouri M. 13 Les personnalites qui vont faire l'annee 2015 -

14 Tunisie: une violence symptome des failles du pouvoir -, 16.06.2012.

15 Rached Gannouchi mene la Tunisie vers le modele iranien, 15.10.2012 -

Emmanuel M. 16 Quelle democratie apres le printemps arabe? 9.04.2012 -

17 Al Qai'da, menace-t-elle vraiment la Tunisie? 21.12.2012 - htpp://


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