It has been more than one year since Tunisians toppled Zine Al Abidine Ben Al who ruled Tunisia for 23 years. The government has since suspended the old constitution and set non-governmental commissions to install new democratic reforms in the north-African country. On October 23rd, Tunisians had their first free elections ever since half a century. The elections brought an assembly that will draw up the country’s new constitution which should now respond to the people’s new aspirations for freedom and democracy.
Despite the legitimacy of the elections and the new government, Tunisia has only accomplished little in terms of democracy. The government’s leadership and management are already questionable with too many premature moves in just one-month span; Tunisia has still long to go.
The concept of democracy has grown in popularity since the revolution, last year. Now all kinds of organizations – educational, associative, and industrial – in Tunisia claim the right to be led by elected figures and juries. Yet, outside of Tunis, democracy can’t even happen on the micro level in none of any other cities. The constituent assembly didn’t pass any new laws that would organize any local elections to elect new city governors or mayors. The obsolete and old elections code of ex-president Ben Ali is still in effect.
The unemployment high rates and transitional justice are also two other big issues in Tunisia. Yet, none of which had been effectively addressed by the government.
Because of these unresolved problems, many Tunisians still can’t feel the change yet. Politicians were and still untrusted by most Tunisians and this may explain why half of Tunisia’s population did not vote in the elections, despite their importance.
Hundreds of people who were wounded during the revolution are still untreated. Wounded have asked for medical treatment and compensations but haven’t gotten any. Not to mention the dozens of foreign companies that shut off and left the country since 2011. The government has been unsuccessful to tame strikes and protests down since December last year. Protesters still claim for jobs and social security. The government seems not to be listening.
Economists attest that foreign and national investments has both shrunk by 35% and 30% leading to the layoff of thousands of employees and the increase of employment rate up to 20%. Obviously, the number of non-working Tunisians is even higher than 1/5th of the populations if we count those who are not even registered at the national labor bureaus and other workers and youth who do not respond to the very specific criteria set by the National Institute of Statistics, which are unknown to most Tunisians.
The raise of the unemployment rate, the price inflations, and the sinking economic growth now make some Tunisians – often the poorest ones – doubt about the success of the revolution.
Despite the graveness of the situation, the government still hasn’t fixed a clear duration for his mandate. No clear political, social, economic or cultural program have been handed out by the government whose main attitude now is “wait and see.” “The government has to declare its mandate in order to elaborate effective programs toward this mandate. It is important to build up the confidence of not only the citizens but also internal and external partners.” This is the view of former minister of employment, Said Ayadi, who chose to join the opposition coalition party.
On another note, the government is also failing behind in terms of leadership and management. The government’s recent incapacity to reach out to the improved regions of Tunisia is making the people question the capability of the new government to run the country for the upcoming months, fix the economy and make a better Tunisia for its 11 million inhabitants.
The current government has fallen already in too many gaps such as overuse of power, homophobic speeches, suppresses and heavy critiques on media which made most Tunisians reluctant about its success.
Tunisia is an example of peaceful transition for other Arab countries to follow. Yet the country also highlights the problems many of these countries will face after their revolutions.