African studiesPolitical studiesRegional studies

The Failure of Bargain Politics and Tunisia’s Crisis of Democratization

Abstract: Under a cloud of uncertainty, Tunisians have been awaiting the formation of a third government since the fall 2019 elections. This article discusses the failure of both political parties and politicians at bargain politics or enacting values and practices of dialogue and negotiation that enable policymaking. Snapshots of major politicians Rached Ghannouchi, Kaiss Saied, Abir Moussi, and Nabil Karoui illustrate some stumbling blocks of the country’s democratization. Disharmony within and between political parties weakens parties and destabilizes the balancing act between the ‘three presidencies’ in a pilloried political system. The political elites’ neglect of the dire and deteriorating socio-economic situation, exacerbated by the COVID-pandemic, has been part of the country’s democratic faltering. Unemployment, access to water, public service infrastructure, harqah migration, soaring public debt, empty coffers, and a contracting economy call for immediate and creative policy solutions. Yet policymaking remains on the back-burner. Amidst this political impasse, hints of creeping presidentialism raise questions about the ‘parliamentary’ in its semi-parliamentary system. Indications that the President and nominated Premier seek to push aside political parties smack of a disregard for electoral legitimacy. However, political parties themselves have been active architects of their own vulnerability. Political elites’ constant pursuit of political posts have taken precedence over voters’ pressing needs. The subsistence markers of dignity (karamah) are central, not secondary, to Tunisia’s democratization. Continuous protest activity and pronounced voter apathy confirm that the political class has veered off-track. Tunisia needs more and better policymaking, not politicking.


About the Author: Larbi Sadiki

Larbi Sadiki
Larbi Sadiki is a Professor of Arab Democratization at Qatar University and the author of The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses (Columbia University Press, 2004) and Rethinking Arab Democratization: Elections without Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2009). Most recently, he is an Editor of Routledge Handbook of Middle East Politics: Interdisciplinary Inscriptions (2020). He is also a Lead Principal Investigator in the four-year QNRF-funded project titled “Transitions of Islam and Democracy: Engendering ‘Democratic Learning’ and Civic Identities.” Research Interests: Democratization, Democracy and Islamism, Arab Spring, New Politics and Protest, and Arab politics in general.

SAKHRI Mohamed

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