Tunisian Politics Splinters as Presidential Election Approaches

A wide range of candidates reflects the country’s increasingly fluid political situation as it tries to consolidate the democratic gains of 2011.

After close to 100 candidate applications, Tunisia’s presidential election on 15 September will feature 27 confirmed candidates, reflecting the country’s fluid political situation and an ongoing split between traditional parties and alliances and enduring anti-establishment populism. The election has been moved up from its originally scheduled November date following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi on 25 July.

Since the 2011 revolution, the Tunisian political landscape has shifted significantly as electoral coalitions have been made and unmade, and as established political parties have fractured into smaller parties or collapsed amid leadership disagreements. In this context, presidential candidates reflect less party platforms and affiliation and more the ambitions of self-styled charismatic figures.

The most recent published round of Arab Barometer surveys (2016) reveals diminishing trust in the political process and institutions. For example, 65% of Tunisians have low or no trust at all in the government, 57% have little or no trust in the legal system, and 72% have little or no trust in parliament. At the same time, the surveys show an increasing trust in security institutions: 69% of Tunisians have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the police; 93% of Tunisians have a great deal of trust in the army.


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