Tunisia’s democratic transition appeared to benefit from pragmatism and consensus over the past eight years. The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, made up of four civil society groups, was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for successfully negotiating a way out of a grave political crisis two years earlier when the transition was close to collapse. Politicians went on to write a progressive constitution and to build an inclusive political system that gave space to both Islamists and their former adversaries from Mr. Ben Ali’s ousted regime.
Elsewhere in the region the promise of the Arab uprisings often descended into counterrevolution and violence, but Tunisia retains the promise of democracy. The presidential election has been peaceful and appears to be largely free and fair.
But there have been warning signs that this politics of consensus would prove hollow. There has been a sharp decline in public confidence in political institutions: Trust in Parliament has fallen to 14 percent, and trust in political parties stands at just 9 percent, according to a recent Arab Barometer survey. That explains the low turnout for the Sept. 15 vote.