Tunis, Tunisia – The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) today announced the arrival of their joint Election Observation Mission (EOM) for Tunisia’s parliamentary elections on October 6. The delegation will be led by Andrew Natsios, former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and Anna Luhrmann, former member of the German parliament and deputy director of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute.
Until last weekend, the World Cup was the only event that I could rely on seeing on every TV in every café in Tunis. But for three nights over this past weekend, soccer took a rare back seat to a whole different kind of competition: the first televised presidential debates in Tunisian history.
All eyes are on Tunisia as it prepares for a presidential election on September 15 — an election hastened by the untimely death of President Beji Kaid Essebsi, the founding father of Tunisia’s second republic.
The 2019 presidential and legislative elections mark Tunisia’s fourth round of elections since the 2011 revolution. The elections will be held against a backdrop of citizens’ growing unease with the economic situation and disappointment in their political leaders. Repeated polling has shown high unemployment, especially among youth and in the country’s underdeveloped interior regions, and rising inflation are driving resentment toward the government for its inability to improve the lives of ordinary Tunisians.
As Tunisia prepares for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, IRI is supporting its local partners in their voter registration and civic education initiatives to reach women and other marginalized voters.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) deployed an international delegation to Tunisia from July 30 - August 2, 2019. The purpose of the mission was to demonstrate the interest of the international community in Tunisia’s continued democratic transition, assess the prevailing political environment and preparations for the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, and identify areas where change is possible to improve the integrity of the elections.
Since the 2011 uprising, Tunisians have demanded the integrity of elections as a reform measure to combat a long history of corruption and lack of transparency. To that end, Tunisian civil society has deployed tens of thousands of citizen election observers over the past eight years and spanning four electoral cycles. As Tunisia gears up for legislative and presidential elections this fall, a group of citizen observer groups is taking unprecedented collaborative steps to ensure a fair and transparent electoral process.
In January 2019, six Tunisian civil society organizations and partners of NDI collectively issued 22 recommendations for improving electoral processes. The group, which includes the Chahed Observatory, IWatch, Mourakiboun, the Ofiya Coalition, the Tunisian Mediterranean Center (TU-MED) and Youth Without Borders (French acronym JSF), collaborated in analyzing their findings from past election observation efforts. Focusing on immediate steps to enhance the 2019 electoral process, taken together the recommendations address several themes: improving election administration; strengthening monitoring and enforcement; deterring malfeasance; increasing transparency; ensuring fair competition; and, promoting citizen participation.
After having been postponed on many occasions for technical and political reasons, Tunisia held municipal elections May, 6, 2018. More than 53,000 candidates, representing 2,074 lists all over the country, ran for seats on municipal councils. Municipal elections represented an important landmark for the implementation of Article Seven of the Tunisian Constitution. As a result, the national government has begun to delegate power and responsibilities to the municipal councils, in a process of decentralization that will last for many years.
In February 2018, NDI organized a set of 12 focus groups to gauge public attitudes on the performance of government and elected officials, key priorities for the country and expectations for the May local elections and ensuing decentralization process. The research marked the Institute's 19th round of focus groups since the revolution of 2011 and the eighth since 2014 elections. The report summarizes attitudes and concerns based on the responses of the 117 respondents. Overall, the findings reaffirm the continuing trend of dissatisfaction among Tunisians and their overarching concern with the economy and levels of corruption in the country. The report explores ambivalence regarding participation in the local elections and a general sense of confusion regarding what should be expected with decentralization and more responsibility for local authorities. However, many of those surveyed expressed interest in voting for parties with candidates who are younger, have helped create noticeable change and who are engaged within their municipality.
Six years after Tunisia’s historic revolution, the first elected legislative body, the Assembly of People’s Representatives (parliament or ARP), as well as the executive branch, are striving to make the new-found democracy work. Despite the noteworthy gains of the revolution, such as freedom of expression, and multiple rounds of credible and transparent elections, public opinion research conducted by NDI in February 2017 shows that many Tunisians continue to wait for tangible reforms at the economic and social levels. The focus group research, conducted in four cities across Tunisia, built on fourteen previous rounds of public opinion research conducted by NDI in since March 2011.