Tunisia‘s growth slowed to 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year compared with 2.7 percent in the same period a year earlier due to a slowdown in most sectors, the central bank said on Thursday, Reuters reports:
The North African country has turned its attention to economic revival after almost completing its full steps to democracy three years after the 2011 revolution that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
The country’s national dialogue will resume on Friday, said Houcine Abassi, Secretary-General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) following a meeting with Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the President of the National Constituent Assembly.
“The date of presidential and legislative elections will be on the agenda,” he said. “No date has been fixed yet for the holding of elections with seven months to go before the year-end deadline, as set forth in the transitional provisions of the Constitution,” Abassi highlighted.
Tunisia still needs to dismantle and reform the structures of the old dictatorship, including the police and the Ministry of Interior, writes Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, who visited political, business, and civil society leaders in Tunisia as part of a recent trip with the International Crisis Group:
Close observers say that the success of the country’s democratic transition depends on the government’s ability to decentralise as well. The concentration of government at the national level has bred corruption. As rights activists Sihem Bensedrine put it: “As long as [the] administration is centralised, it gets many privileges.” Decentralisation (establishing more empowered regional governments) has been enshrined in the new Constitution to allow a more equitable distribution of revenue and governance.
“The country has long been divided by its coastal wealth and poorer interior,” former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali had explained to me and our small group of international visitors. Some legislators are thus looking to redraw regions so each includes both coastal and interior areas.
With Tunisia’s new constitution ratified and election preparations underway, citizens are optimistic about political progress and the gradually improving security situation, but they are concerned with high unemployment, rising prices and poor service delivery, according to a new round of focus group research by the National Democratic Institute.
The focus groups, conducted April 10-17 with 142 participants from four cities across the country, build on nine previous rounds of public opinion research conducted by NDI since March 2011. Respondents discussed their views of political parties and institutions, their perspectives on progress to date, and their priorities going forward, including expectations regarding the next elections. Key findings include:
- In a reversal from previous NDI research, the majority of participants believes the country is headed in the right direction, citing political milestones including adoption of the constitution and the handover to a caretaker government. Enthusiasm about political progress is nevertheless tempered by ongoing anxiety over the economic situation.
- Despite their positive impressions, citizens report low awareness of the contents of the constitution and the next steps in the electoral process, and they are eager for better outreach from political leaders on those subjects.
- Political parties are often viewed as talking “at” citizens. Tunisians want leaders to engage in genuine dialogue with them on their concerns and to present realistic solutions.
- Tunisians admit to confusion about the election commission, the ISIE, and some have doubts about its ability to run transparent elections. They thus view election observation, particularly by domestic civil society organizations, as crucial in safeguarding elections, especially as many anticipate infractions by political parties.
- Views are mixed on controversial provisions of the electoral law debated by the NCA, particularly on exclusion of former regime and ruling party members from running as candidates and the institution of an electoral threshold. The latter provision would require parties to secure 3 percent of votes nationwide to obtain seats in parliament.
- Despite some disillusionment, most citizens are committed to exercising their right to vote. They are especially interested in municipal elections, which are seen as vital to resolving local problems.
NDI, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, is sharing the findings with leaders of ruling and opposition political parties, civil society organizations and the government to inform the policy-making process and encourage increased responsiveness to citizens’ interests and needs. The research was made possible by funding from the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative.