Parties in an era of change: membership in the (re-)making in post-revolutionary Tunisia

In the current era of rapid and radical evolution in the institutions of partisan politics, one of the best-documented and most discussed changes in established and more recent democracies has been the decline of membership enrolment, and yet its resilience. By contrast, comparative research on Maghrebi political parties, and on this aspect in particular, has for a long time been rather narrow or non-existent. With the newly democratised Tunisia at the centre stage of the analysis, this contribution aims at partly filling such a gap and explores the ways in which Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes discipline their memberships. In presenting what privileges the parties grant to their members, what they expect from those who join and the differences in what individuals need to do to enrol, this article focuses on findings from personal interviews and the examination of parties’ bylaws and statutes. Through the lens of inclusiveness as core dimension, it argues that the two parties vary widely in the extent of their efforts to cultivate membership structures and party-related activities, as well as for the significance they attach to them. Whereas Ennahda more heavily invests in creating and reinforcing strong bonds of identity, and gives its members more voice in internal decision-making, Nidaa is more prone to promote candidates or policies keeping the organisational membership at a minimum, not least in the attempt not to restrain leadership’s autonomy.

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