Libmonster ID: SE-332
Author(s) of the publication: A. A. KASHINA

Tunisia Keywords:Ben Alidemocracy

The next parliamentary and presidential elections were held in Tunisia on October 25, 2009. Tunisia's current president, Zine al - Abidine Ben Ali, was re-elected for a fifth term in office. Most of the seats in Parliament - 161 out of 214 - went, as expected, to the ruling party-the Democratic Constitutional Association(DKO)1. Turnout was 89.4% of the 5.2 million Tunisians eligible to vote (the country's population is 10.4 million).

The President and members of Parliament in Tunisia are elected simultaneously, for a term of 5 years. The last elections did not differ much from the previous ones (1999 and 2004). Everything followed the same pattern, except for some amendments made to the electoral code, which will be discussed below.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS-ALL FOR BEN ALI?

The undisputed favorite of the elections, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, came to power in a top-level coup on November 7, 1987, when the first president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, 84, who had ruled the country continuously for three decades (the last 12 years - on a life-long basis), was removed from his duties for "medical reasons". The bloodless change of power was called the "jasmine revolution". And if Bourguiba was called a "Great Fighter", referring to his leading role in the struggle for independence of the country, then Ben Ali won the honorary title of "Man of Change", because the very fact of the coup was presented as the beginning of a "new era", or "Era of change".

The first steps of the new president are to lift restrictions on the activities of legal opposition parties and declare a course for the development of political pluralism.

In 1988, Ben Ali repealed the Constitution's provision on a lifetime presidency and reduced the number of possible re-elections of the head of State to two terms. However, in 2002, a constitutional amendment was introduced that gave Ben Ali the opportunity to become president for the fifth time.2

Despite the declaration of democratic values, Ben Ali and the DKO headed by him had actual advantages in the 2009 elections (as, indeed, in the previous ones). So, the campaign for Ben Ali began earlier than the campaign of other candidates. As early as November 2007, posters with the inscription "We are with you, Ben Ali, in 2009!"flashed on the streets of cities and villages. 3 In addition, even before the official registration of candidates for the highest state post, Ben Ali received the public support of the Tunisian General Union of Labor (the oldest trade union organization), business associations, women's organizations, etc. and other public organizations.

The new program of the President "Together we will meet the challenges" consisted of 24 points 4, in which he promised to bring Tunisia to the level of developed countries by 2014, continue the path of democratization, build a civil society based on freedom of speech and pluralism, develop innovative technologies, fight unemployment and support women and youth.

By the way, a special feature of the 2009 elections was the increased participation of young people in them, thanks to a recent amendment to the electoral code, which lowered the age limit for eligible voters from 20 to 18 years. This made it possible to expand the electorate by 500 thousand people. The regime was confident that young people would vote for Ben Ali. First, because the authorities control universities and students. Secondly, youth policy is not the last place in the political program of the Far Eastern Partnership (the establishment of a youth radio, a youth channel, the Ben Ali initiative to proclaim 2010 the Year of Youth at the International level, etc.).

The pre-election program of the president also listed considerable achievements of previous years. It was Ben Ali who "saved" Tunisia from the looming threat of Islamism in the 1980s. He managed izba-

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the country from poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and smooth economic reforms ("structural adjustment" to the market) have improved the living conditions of a significant part of the country's population.5 GDP per capita in 2009 exceeded 5 thousand dinars, or 3,800 US dollars (in 1989-1 thousand dinars, or 1,200 US dollars).6. Two-thirds of Tunisian families live in a private home, and a fifth of the population has a car, and ten years ago only a tenth of the population owned their own car. Approximately 65% of the country's residents now live in 7 cities. Almost all children at the age of 6 go to school. The number of university graduates is growing. The average life expectancy rose to 74 years from 67 in 1987.8

The list of presidential candidates, in addition to Ben Ali (from the DKO party), included Ahmed Ibrahim, the new general secretary of the al-Taj'id movement (former Communist Party)9, Mohammed Bushiha of the Popular Unity Party (PNE)10 and Ahmed Inubli of the Democratic Unionist Union (DUS)11.

In Tunisia, there are about a dozen opposition groups of less than a hundred people, which do not represent a real counterweight to the ruling party (formally, about 2 million people are in the DKO) and serve only as a facade of democracy. Tunisian parties can be divided into three groups: 1. Parties represented in the Parliament (PNE, DYUS, at-Tadjdid, etc.). 2. Parties that are not represented in the Parliament and claim to be active opposition (Forum for Democracy, Labor and Freedom, Democratic Progressive Party). 3. Parties operating illegally (Nahda, the Tunisian Workers ' Communist Party).

It should be noted that all the candidates for the post of president were nominated by parties represented in parliament, which means that they are relatively loyal to the regime. Until 2008, the support of at least one member of Parliament was a prerequisite for the nomination of a presidential candidate. And until 1999, this required the support of at least 30 responsible elected officials (deputies or chairmen of municipal councils).

In 2008, Ben Ali, who had long promised to ease the conditions for running for president, introduced an amendment to the constitution, according to which only a candidate from a legal opposition party who continuously served as its head for at least 2 years before the election date (and not 5 years, as was previously the case) can participate in presidential elections. This insufficient concession, according to the opposition, caused a flurry of criticism, because it was "an undisguised attempt to throw the main opposition members of the country out of the game."12

Indeed, candidates represented by the Forum for Democracy, Labor and Freedom (FDTS)parties are eligible13 and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)14, failed to qualify for the presidential race. The leader of the FDTS, doctor Mustafa Ben Jaafar, applied for registration as a candidate, but like DPP nominee A. N. Al-Shabbi, he was rejected due to "non-compliance with the formal requirements" .15 The DPP nominated al-Shabbi as its presidential candidate in February 2008. The founder of the DPP and its permanent Secretary General, al-Shabbi, in 2006, at his own request, delegated his post to Mia al-Jaribi. In early 2008, he was reinstated, but in March of the same year, the constitutional amendment mentioned above was introduced. Therefore, on a formal basis, al-Shabbi could not be allowed to participate in the presidential race. In August 2009, he called for a boycott-

page 36

He called the upcoming elections "not free, unfair and transparent" and said that he would not "participate in elections where you have to squeeze through narrow doors that are almost tightly closed to the people" .16

During this election campaign, complaints about violations of the election law were also received from other opposition representatives. Thus, Ahmed Ibrahim has repeatedly accused the state media of failing to observe the principle of impartiality. "Posters with the image of the president have been hanging all over the country for two years, and I was shown on state television for only 7 minutes," the candidate was indignant on the eve of the 17 elections.

Many media outlets called A. Ibrahim, a former university lecturer, a" real competitor " of Ben Ali. The main electorate of his party consists of residents of Cape Bon, Jebel Jellul district, mining areas (Gafsa, Radeif), etc. It was there that the largest wave of strikes in recent years took place in 2008, demanding that the authorities improve working conditions. Ibrahim has repeatedly said that he represents "a responsible opposition that does not only criticize" and intends to compete "on an equal footing" with Ben Ali, emphasizing the need to expand democratic reforms.

The election programs of the PNE and DUS candidates were not very original and generally repeated the election program of Ben Ali 18. As in the previous elections, the PNE nominated its leader, M. Bushikha, as a candidate for the presidential post in 2009. The party's leadership avoids criticizing Ben Ali's policies, although it believes that it is necessary to be more careful about the privatization of the public sector and make greater use of the mechanisms of state regulation of the economy. The PNE program platform is based on general democratic principles (balance the legislative and executive powers, guarantee freedom of the press, etc.). Bushiha spoke under the slogans " Together for a progressive and just Tunisia!", " Strengthen the republican institutions!" and he promised to organize a national dialogue on employment, involve the private sector in education and healthcare, review the system of social guarantees, reform the agricultural sector and fight corruption. In the field of foreign policy, the leader of the PNE called cooperation within the framework of the Arab Maghreb Union (SAM) and support for the Palestinian people a priority.19

Candidate from DYUS A. Inubli, a lawyer by training, came out with the campaign slogan "To solidarity of all social forces and regions". He called for expanding the prerogatives of the Tunisian Parliament, implementing a series of reforms in the spirit of building parliamentary democracy, developing political pluralism, ensuring interaction between the public and private sectors, preserving the Arab-Muslim identity of Tunisia, respecting the power of law and the principles of civil society, and striving for equality of all social groups.

There was no doubt about the outcome of this battle between the dwarfs and the giant. Although this time a smaller percentage of voters voted for Ben Ali than usual (in 2004, 94.48% of voters voted for him, even earlier his rating exceeded 99%). Ben Ali collected 89.62% of the vote, Mohammed Bushiha - 5%, Ahmed Inubli-3.8%. Ahmed Ibrahim came last in this race, receiving 1.57% of the vote. Thus, despite the visible political activity of the opposition candidates in the elections, there is no real alternative to the election process.-

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The current president doesn't have to say anything.

25% PLURALISM

In fact, the main intrigue of the last election was what will be the new composition of the parliament. The fact is that elections to the Chamber of Deputies are held under a mixed majority-proportional system, which was introduced in 1993 and now reserves 25% of parliamentary seats for the legal opposition. Votes are counted first according to the majority system, the leader party is identified, which occupies 75% of all seats in parliament, the remaining 25% is distributed among other parties. For these places and the real battle unfolded.

In addition to the DCOS, 8 other parties that form the legal opposition took part in the parliamentary elections. The new composition of the Chamber of Deputies is as follows:

- Democratic Constitutional Association (DKO) - 161 seats (against 152 seats in 2004);

- Movement of Democrats-Socialists (DDS)20-16 seats (14 in 2004);

- National Unity Party (PNE) - 12 (11 in 2004);

- Democratic Unionist Union (DUS) - 9 (7 in 2004);

- Social Liberal Party (SLP)21-8 (2 in 2004);

- Green Party for Progress (PZP)22-6 (registered in 2006);

- At-Tadjid Movement - 2 seats (party lists in many districts were canceled; in 2004 - 3 seats).

Thus, in 2009, the legal opposition parties won 53 parliamentary seats (in 2004 - 37 seats, and in 1999 - 34). It is worth noting that the total number of seats in Parliament increases in proportion to the country's population growth (in 2004, there were 189 seats in Parliament), and the electoral legislation also increases the quota of parliamentary seats for opposition parties - from 9% in 1994 to 20% in 1999 and to 25% in 2009. 23

Not a single independent candidate entered the parliament, although there were about 20 candidates on independent lists. The authorities fear that Islamists may be hiding under the "cover" of independent candidates, so under the current electoral system, it is practically impossible for a non-partisan candidate to get elected to parliament.

Analysts note that the opposition is much inferior to the ruling party due to its disunity and existing electoral mechanisms, thanks to which only loyal, carefully selected candidates get into Parliament24. In the pursuit of mandates, candidates "moved" from one party to another. The chances of getting into the parliamentary seat are higher for those participants who head the list, so the candidates tried to predict whose list in a particular electoral district would be more successful, and changed their party affiliation in the most unexpected way25.

During the election campaign, lists of opposition parties objectionable to the regime were removed.26 Moreover, according to some party figures, it is in those districts where these parties could really gain a lot of votes.

Banned parties such as Nahda (formerly the Islamic Movement), the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (CPTR) and the Republican Congress are still operating underground in Tunisia.

In general, it can be stated that the balance of power in the Tunisian parliament has not changed dramatically after the elections. Opposition parties with the number of seats available to them are not able to significantly influence the policy of the "majority party". In addition, the opposition forces represented in Parliament are most often satellites of the ruling party and cannot exist without state support. Their programs basically repeat the program of the DKO, and party newspapers exist on state subsidies. Tunisian Minister of Administrative Development Z. Muzaffar admitted in an interview that "the opposition in Tunisia is still young, and it needs to do a lot to convince the masses to vote for it"27.On the other hand, the opposition, which could actually gain the support of a large number of voters (for example, the Democratic Progressive Party or Nahda), is not allowed to participate in the elections. According to its activists, it does not receive state funding and equal access to the press with other parties, so it is forced to conduct propaganda through the Internet and European media.

As for the high rating of DCOS in the elections, there are two explanations for this. First, the unspent prestige of the DKO party as the successor of the "New Dustur". Secondly, the preservation of paternalistic sentiments, that is, the habit of people voting for the existing government. The absence of at least one legal opposition party that could counterbalance the ruling one also plays a role.

REACTION ABROAD

According to the official Tunisian press, the electoral process is being monitored-

page 38

The MOAT was monitored by 28 journalists and international observers from 23 Arab and Western countries (excluding the United States), as well as observers from the African Union, in addition to the local electoral committee. Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department official said on October 26, 2009, that the United States was "concerned" that there were no international independent observers at the elections.29 Human Rights Watch, an international organization, noted with disappointment that objective coverage of the Tunisian elections is still a long way off, as the authorities continue to put pressure on "journalists with special opinions." 30

Thus, on September 29, 2009, H. Hamami, the founder and leader of the banned CPTR, who had flown in from Paris,was detained by the police and put under house arrest. He was also prevented from flying to Paris for a press conference on the Tunisian elections. These actions are linked to Hamami's interview with Al Jazeera, in which he accused the Tunisian government of repression and human rights violations. Persona non grata in Tunisia turned out to be the correspondent of the newspaper "Monde" F. Bege, who was not allowed to enter the country upon arrival at the Tunisian airport on October 20, 2009. Presumably because of her publication in this newspaper about the harassment of Hamami 31. Meanwhile, Tunisian television's central Channel 7 broadcast interviews with Tunisians on election day, confirming that " voting takes place openly, without pressure, in a friendly atmosphere."

The phenomenon of Tunisian development is that against the background of positive socio-economic dynamics, there is a deliberate" tightening " of the screws to opposition parties and movements. Back in the 1980s, Tunisia was under a serious threat of Islamism. Today, people have to choose between freedom and security, and they tend to choose the latter.

In general, political trends here have a lot in common, for example, with Egypt. This is actually a lifetime presidency, the desire to establish a "republican monarchy". The majority of the population is satisfied with this policy; it is considered to have avoided a civil war like the one that raged in Algeria in the 1990s. But the price of political stability is the restriction of democratic freedoms: public and individual.

Tunisian elections are " theater and show-off to the West, "Al-Jazeera columnist A. Ben Arfo said on the eve of the election in an article titled "Tunisian elections and the Ben Ali Harvest." 32 He accused the authorities of having" swallowed up " the only possible worthy competitor of the DKO in the political arena - the General Tunisian Union of Labor, while the activities of the General Union of Tunisian Students are constantly monitored by the police.

After the announcement of the election results in Tunisia, the broadcasting and website of al-Jazeera were blocked. In response, the Arab Bureau of Human Rights Information, headquartered in Cairo, said that "Ben Ali won and democracy lost." 33

But in this case, it is not so much the criticism that is important, but how authoritative Western analysts assess the future of Tunisia. And in this their opinions differ. Some, given the age of the current Tunisian president and the smooth functioning of the "one-person" system, portend an acute political crisis in a power vacuum that can negate all the success of modernization. Others, such as Nicolas Beau and Catherine Gracier, authors of The Ruler of Carthage, 34 suggest that there will be a transfer of power in Tunisia within the "Trabelsi family clan". Namely, the current first Lady of Tunisia, Leila Ben Ali (nee Ley), will take the presidential chair "by inheritance".-

page 39

la Trabelsi), or Ben Ali's son - in-law, Mohammed Shaker al-Matri.

However, it may not be difficult for Ben Ali himself to make another amendment to the constitution under the pretext of the popularity of his policies and the "inexhaustible" support from the population in order to remove the current age limit for a presidential candidate. However, even if Ben Ali is not formally barred from running for a sixth presidential term, his age-related health condition makes it questionable whether he will be physically able to run the country.

For this reason, the task of finding a successor is urgent for the Tunisian President and the ruling party.


1 DKO is a direct descendant of the New Dustur party, which emerged in 1934 as a result of the split of the Liberal-Constitutional Party (short name "Dustur", i.e. Constitution), formed in 1920. Habib Bourguiba, who led the country to independence, was one of the founders of the New Dustur, its general Secretary, and then the chairman. In 1964, Novy Dustur was renamed the Socialist Dusturov Party, which since 1988 has had its current name. Thus, the DKO is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2010.

2 In 1987-1989. Ben Ali was the interim president. In 1989, presidential elections were held, in which Ben Ali officially became President of the Tunisian Republic. The first alternative presidential election was held in Tunis in 1999.

Vidyasova M. F., Orlov V. V. 3 Political Islam in the countries of North Africa. Istoriya i sovremennoe sostoyanie [History and Current State], Moscow: Moscow University Press, 2008, p. 116.

4 For more information, see - www.rcd.tn

5 http://www.ins.nat.tn/indexfr.php

6 UN data - http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?q=tunisia+per+capita

7 http://www.ins.nat.tn/indexfr.php

8 World Bank data - http://web.worldbank.org

9 The Tunisian Communist Party, renamed the at-Tadjid (Renewal) movement in 1993, emerged in 1920-1921 from a local section of the French Communist Party. The approximate size of the movement is estimated at 100 people. The permanent leader of at-Tadjid for 20 years was Mohammed Harmel. However, after his defeat in the 2004 elections, the party was reformed and changed its charter. Ahmed Ibrahim, who was nominated by the party as its presidential candidate in 2009, was elected the new Secretary General of al-Taj'id, and M. Harmel was given the title of honorary chairman of the party.

10 PNE occupies a center-left niche. It emerged in 1985 on the basis of the moderate wing of the National Unity Movement (DNM), which was founded by a prominent figure of the Bourguiba era - Ahmed Bin Salah, a supporter of the" doctrine of Dosturovian socialism " (1962-1969). At the turn of 1980-1990. PNE numbered up to 10 thousand people. Subsequently, the number of its activists was greatly reduced.

11 DYUS was founded in 1988 and supports the idea of Arab nationalism. The party is small in number and has been represented in Parliament since 1994. In 2004, Ahmed Inubli was elected the new Secretary General of the Youth Sports Union.

12 Taadil al-dustour al-tunisiyyah Yousirou tahadiyat intihabiyyah (Amendment to the Tunisian Constitution threatens the electoral process) - http://alwatanye.net/53673.htm, 25.03.2008.

13 The FDTC, formed in 1994 as a protest against "ostentatious pluralism", was officially registered in 2002. Its active members, who do not exceed 100 people, are former members of the Tunisian League for Human Rights and trade unionists.

14 The DPP was founded in 2001 and has up to a thousand members, mostly residents of the capital. This is almost the only party that, according to its own statement, does not enjoy the financial support of the state, allowing itself sharp and even aggressive criticism of the authorities. Since 1989. The DPP participates in parliamentary elections, but its member has never managed to get into a deputy's seat.

15 Zaim Hizb tunisiyeh Muarid yatarashshah li l'intihabat ar-riasiyeh (Leader of the opposition Tunisian party is running for election) - http://www.elaph.eom/Web/Politics/2009/9/486445.htm, 24.09.2009.

16 See the official website of the DPP - http://www.pdpinfo.org

17 Muarid tunisiyeh yahzour min awakib ijra intihabat geir shaffafa fi Tunis (Opposition leader warns against holding unfair elections in Tunisia) - http://dp-news.com/pages/detail.aspx?articleld-18074, 07.09.09.

18 Lecture dans les manifestes de deux candidates a la presidentielle. Realites, N 1242, 15.10 - 21.10.2009, p. 16.

19 Ibidem.

20 The founder of the DDS, Ahmed Mstiri, formed the party in 1978. In the 1980s, it had about 40 thousand members, but since the second half of the 1990s, like other opposition parties, it has almost lost its autonomy and, like the PNE, is now a clientelist party under full control of the regime. The number of DDS members does not exceed 100 people. Its new chairman, Ismail Bulyahya, was one of three opposition leaders who declared support for Ben Ali's re-election as president in the 1999 elections. In 2009, the party leader did the same.

21 SLP at the time of its formation in 1988 was called the Social Party for Progress, in 1993 it changed its name. The SLP adheres to a liberal direction in the economy, and fielded its candidate in the last presidential election in 2004.

22 The PPP has not previously been represented in the Chamber of Deputies. But its founder, Monji Hamasi, used to be a member of the CPL and was one of two members of Parliament elected in 2004 on its list.

23 An increase in the quota for opposition parties in 2009 allowed a columnist for the Tunisian newspaper Realite to claim that "multipartism is now a reality" (Kabla G. Un Plebiscite, une Gloire pour Ben Ali // Realites, 15.10 - 21.10.2009, p. 12).

Bounenni B. 24 Tunisia's wretched opposition - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/24/tunisia-election-reform-opposition, 24.10.2009.

Haouachi A. 25 Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir a point! // Realites, 1.10-7.10.2009, p. 11. For example, Hadida Maziaot PNE was at the head of the list of the Green Party for Progress in the Gabes district, on the same ground there was a scandal in the circles of the at-Tadjid movement and the Left Socialists.

26 For example, the al-Taj'id movement told reporters that 13 of the party's 26 lists were not accepted. On October 24, 2009, the Democratic Progressive Party appealed to the media to protest against the non-recognition of 18 of the 26 submitted lists. To all the protests, the official authorities replied that, according to the election law, the final decision on lists is made on condition that the candidates on the lists meet all the requirements, and explanations of the reasons for accepting or rejecting them are not mandatory.

Al Baik Duraid. 27 Opposition in Tunisia "still young" - http://gulfnews.com/news/region/tunisia/opposition-in-tunisia-still-young-1.514286, 14.10.2009.

28 The National Electoral Committee was established in 2004 and monitored the elections for only the second time in 2009.

29 Ben Ali reelu: les USA "preoccupes" - http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2009/10/26/01011 - 20091026FILWWW00584-reelection-de-ben-aliles-usa-preoccupes.php, 26.10.2009.

30 Tunisia: Elections in an Atmosphere of Repression - http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/23/tunisia-elections-atmosphere-repression, 23.10.2009.

31 См.: Election campaign impossible for opposition media - http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id article-34826, 23.10.2009.

Ben Arfo A. 32 Intihabat Tunis wa Hasad Ben Ali (Tunisian elections and Ben Ali's harvest) - http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/06C31F37-6472-4FA6-B278-9907A6EEE4B8.htm, 1.10.2009.

33 Rights group: Tunisia blocks al-Jazeera's website after elections - http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/africa/news/article_1509687.php/Rights-group-Tun isia-blocks-al-Jazeera-s-website-after-elections, 27.10.2009.

Beau N., Graciet C. 34 La Regente de Carthage. Main basse sur la Tunisie. Paris: La Decouverte, 2009.


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