Europe in the World

EUSpring Project


EUSpring | Shall Tunisia Succeed in Becoming a Strong Democratic State?

14 December 2015
Afifa Ayadi (Student at Ecole Supérieur des Sciences et Techniques de la santé de Monastir (ESSTSM)) and Hamadi Redissi (Professor of Political Sciences at University al-Manar of Tunis)


Arab revolutions have sparked real hopes for democracy, but the situation varies from one state to another and change has taken various directions, with unpredictable outcomes in the future. In light of current events, most of these countries seem to have failed in their democratic transition and also face the dissolution of their state apparatus in bloody civil wars. This leaves the door open to interpretations associating democracy with chaos. In this view, preserving post-colonial states – authoritarian in most cases – is better than having no state at all. This partially justified the coup that took place in Egypt, where the ‘Deep State’ has recovered its capabilities in a dictatorial manner.The Arab world thus faced an impasse: the state is either stable but authoritarian or democratic yet threatened with dissolution. The dilemma results in an impossible choice between stable dictatorship or freedom ending in chaos.

The Arab world thus faced an impasse: the state is either stable but authoritarian or democratic yet threatened with dissolution. The dilemma results in an impossible choice between stable dictatorship or freedom ending in chaos.

Tunisia seems to be the only country that managed to achieve a democratic transition while preserving the state institutions, to the extent that some observers talk about the "Tunisian exception". However, several indicators show that state weakness could be ascribed to the uncertain character of the democratic transition. Yet there seem to be more profound and serious reasons to fear for this transition. Is Tunisia really immune from the threat of state failure? How can this country take up the challenge of being a state that is at the same time powerful and democratic? From our perspective, the Tunisian state has historically been stable. It has always been a powerful state –meaning a state able to penetrate society and implement its agenda. However, a deep concern remains: how can a democratic state reinforce the fundamentals of power on the one hand and address the challenges of disintegration on the other?

This paper is published in the framework of the EUSpring project on Democracy and Citizenship in North Africa after the Arab Awakening: Challenges for EU and US Foreign Policy (www.euspring.com). The project is carried out by a consortium of organisations, including the European Policy Centre, University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies in Tunisia and the Centre de Recherche sur l'Afrique et la Méditerranée in Morocco and coordinated by Università degli Studi L’Orientale in Naples. The project is supported by the Compagnia di San Paolo.

In this programme


Publications

EUSpring Project