Tunisia’s democracy on the brink
Tunisia in North Africa was the birthplace of the Arab Spring, a wave of popular uprisings that shook or toppled authoritarian regimes in the region. But, after a decade of fragile democracy, in 2019 a new strongman, President Kais Saied, swept to power. He directed his campaign at young Tunisians, promising an end to corruption.
There was optimism but the Covid pandemic had battered the economy and exposed - as it did in many other countries - the weaknesses of the health system. Mr Saied insisted Tunisia's democratic system was not working so he used emergency powers to sack the prime minister, close the National Assembly and suspend the constitution - essentially paving the way to rule by decree.
Last week one of Tunisia’s most prominent opposition leaders, Rached Ghannouchi, who is also the leader of Tunisia’s largest political party, was imprisoned. He's the latest in a long line of critics jailed by the president. So, is this the final nail in the coffin for Tunisia’s fledgling democracy? What is President’s Saied’s vision? And what, if anything, can the world do to prevent the Arab Spring's one success story joining its long list of failures?
Shaun Ley is joined by:
Nadia Marzouki, a political scientist and tenured researcher at Sciences Po in Paris
Ghazi Ben Ahmed, a Tunisian economist and the founder of the Brussels-based think-tank Mediterranean Development Initiative
Monica Marks, assistant professor of Middle East politics at New York University in Abu Dhabi
Yusra Ghannouchi, the daughter of Rached Ghannouchi
Nabil Ammar, the Tunisian Foreign Minister
Elizia Volkmann, journalist in Tunis
Photo: The 67th anniversary of Tunisia's Independence, Tunis - 20 Mar 2023
Credit: MOHAMED MESSARA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
Produced by Pandita Lorenz and Rumella Dasgupta