How sustainable is the Tunisian democratic exception?
Unlike the rest of the Arab Spring countries, which failed to democratise, Tunisia seems to have brought its democratic transition to a successful completion. Since 2011, the country embarked on a challenging electoral process along with the building of a new institutional architecture. After a number of consecutive free, competitive and undisputed elections, the debate about Tunisia’s democratisation has shifted from transition to consolidation. The question is no longer about whether Tunisians are capable of establishing a democratic system but about their ability to sustain their nascent democracy. The fact that Tunisia was the starting point of the Arab Spring and the only country to succeed in democratising its political system raised a number of questions about the specificity of this experience. Among the possible answers is the political culture factor, which the author discusses with some historical evidence. The political culture argument helps in assessing the degree to which this unique experience can survive in an unfavourable environment. A number of indicators show that, after nine years of democratic learning and practicing, the so-called Tunisian exception is likely to continue. This paper tries to understand this challenging yet successful transition to the consolidation phase from a democratisation theory perspective.
Ezzeddine Abdelmoula is manager of research at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies. His
research interest covers international politics and International theories, democratisation,
political Islam, and media studies. He holds a PhD in politics from Exeter University and a
Masters from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of london.