African Study

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Mohamed BejiCaidEssebsi is the present leader of Tunisia.

Tunisia has got its independence from France on 20 March, 1956 (The World Factbook, 2014). Habib Bourguiba was a statesman who has made this independence possible. At first, the governing party “Neo Destour” and, most notably, its leader Habib Bourguibahave made major democratic reforms by giving more freedom to women and by stating that Tunisia wills upkeep no militarist policy. During the very first years of independence, the government tried to show that they accept the western capitalistic values; later in 1964, the  party was renamed the Socialist Destourian Party to show the government’s desire for socialistic reforms. However, no serious steps were taken towards socialism. As a result, Ahmad ben Salah, the initiator of those reforms, was dismissed from the office by the president. Two decades later, the Republic of Tunisia could not be called democracy in the Western sense, since too much power was given to the president.

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Over the past twenty years, politics of the country have changed dramatically. At first, Ben Ali conducted more liberal policies (Allen, 2006). After some time, starting from 1994, the process of liberalization was canceled. Afterwards, Ben Ali was elected as a president in 1999, 2004 and 2009 with high rates and with no competitors. Since 1994 till 2009, the regime of Ben Ali was called by many humanitarian agencies as one of the most repressive ones. In 2010, the citizens have started the Tunisian Revolution, which resulted in Ben Ali leaving the country and the government. The government declared an intention to build new free democratic country (Paciello, 2011). Hence, during the last 20 years, the revolution has transformed Tunisia from dictatorship to a democratic parliamentary republic.

Currently, Tunisia is a unitary unicameral parliamentary republic. The main political parties are – NidaaTounes – big tent secularist, center left, liberal Tunisian nationalists: Ennahda Movement – socially centrist party, which supports economic liberalism: Free Patriotic Union – centrist party of socialist-liberal orientation.

The latest presidential elections in Tunisia were held on 23 November in 2014. NidaaTounes gained political power, as its member BejiCaidEssebsi has become a Tunisian president.

The reactions of citizens and government members to the election results were different. Opponent to BejiCaidEssebsi, MoncefMarzouki did not make any official statements about the results. The independent observers, as well as media, stated that the election campaign was free and fair. The populace reaction was not so positive. The supporters of BejiCaidEssebsi in the capital were celebrating victory, while the opposition was rioting in the south of the country, stating that CaidEssebsi was a part of old Ben Ali government. The riots against election results were quite severe, so police was forced to use tear gas and the regional office of NidaaTounes was set on fire.

The freedom of speech is guaranteed in Tunisian constitution, but the actual situation is not so optimistic, unfortunately. For example, the opposing parties have a right to publish their own newspapers, but the amount of these newspapers is very small. Also, almost all state newspapers are controlled by Tunisian press agency (International Monetary Fund, 2012). The next elections are expected to be held in 2018.

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Today, the relationships between USA and Tunisia can be characterized as positive. This observation can be supported by a citation from the official statement of US “Department of State Tunisia is a strong partner of the United States and the U.S. Government is proud to support Tunisia in its transition to democracy.”- (Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, 2013). Also, the US government gave $350 million to Tunisia after the revolution. Noadays, USA aids Tunisia to further develop democracy, to support economic growth to help fight groups that are attempting to destabilize the country (Embassy of US, 2014).


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