On May 6, Tunisia held its first municipal elections since the 2011 revolution, and the first free and fair local elections in the country’s history, widely hoped to usher in more legitimate and transparent local authorities with greater control over regional development. Yet these potentially pivotal elections saw low turnout amid ongoing national dissatisfaction with traditional political parties, the government’s economic austerity policies, stalled anti-corruption and decentralization efforts, and partisan infighting. Have the elections positioned Tunisia to make progress on such issues, and what do they indicate about voters’ attitudes toward current policies?

Four experts examine what implications the elections may have for political parties, security forces, decentralization, and Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Discussion

  • A Step Forward for Independents

    May 10, 2018 Haifa Mzalouat

    With half the voter turnout compared to the 2014 legislative elections, the municipal elections indicate a lack of trust toward mainstream parties.

     
  • Nominal Decentralization

    May 10, 2018 Malek Lakhal

    Despite hopes that new local councils usher in a new way of governing Tunisian regions, the central state has so far shown little tolerance for local initiatives pursuing self-defined development goals.

     
  • Security Forces Balance Politics and Neutrality

    May 10, 2018 Sharan Grewal

    Despite low turnout, the smooth participation of Tunisia’s security forces in their first-ever election may lead to calls for greater voting rights in future contests.

     
  • Sustaining Democracy

    May 11, 2018 Emir Sfaxi

    The results of the elections provide hope that Tunisia can sustain democracy despite a difficult political climate and a suffocating economic situation.