Political instability deepening in Tunisia over economic crisis
WITH the trade deficit at a record level of 19.04 billion dinars in 2018, Tunisia has started to suffer from severe political instability. The disputes between the main political parties, terror and insecurity issues near the Libyan border have already pushed the country into turmoil.
TUNISIA is the country where the Arab Spring euphorically started, sweeping across the country, leading to conflicts and deadly wars. While Libya, Syria and Yemen continue to suffer from civil wars with the participation of numerous local, regional and international actors, Tunisia has been able to avoid falling into a conflict and has been seen as a model for other Arab countries where politics and political transitions have been tumultuous. However, with the economy deteriorating, this tiny country has started suffering from political instability.
Several articles in local and international media claim that democracy in Tunisia is under threat since disputes between the main political parties are deepening along with the present problems, like terror and insecurity near the Libyan border. More importantly, the economy has become its major problem. In 2018, Tunisia’s trade deficit reached a record 19.04 billion dinars ($6.44 billion), compared to 15.59 billion dinars in 2017 and 12.6 billion dinars in 2016 according to data published by the National Institute of Statistics. Moreover, Tunisia's imports decreased by 20% in 2018, compared to 19.8% in 2017, reaching a total value of around 60 billion dinars, compared to around 50 billion dinars in 2017.
Economic problems and disputes between the country’s main parties worsen the situation. However, due to other conflicts that are naturally considered more important, like those in Libya, Yemen or the latest one in Sudan, Tunisia cannot find a place for itself in the international area.
Tunisians voted in parliamentary elections in 2014 with the secular party Nidaa Tounes winning after gaining 85 seats in parliament, while the Islamist Ennahda Party gained 69 seats. The party, which has ties to the deposed regime, gained more seats than the Ennahda Party, which had been ruling the country since it gained 89 seats (40 per cent of the votes) in parliament in the 2011 elections after the removal of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In the presidential elections the incumbent president, Beji Caid Essebsi, won the presidential elections against the Ennahda candidate.
Contrary to other Arab countries, the two parties somehow managed to get along despite an evident division between their views and approaches to several issues. Still, their relations are good, but the problem is with the ruling party, which has internal problems. Essebsi’s attempts to put his son and heirs into ruling roles have infuriated certain Nidaa members. Ennahda also supported these Nidaa members. Following these developments, Essebsi started accusing Ennahda of carrying out terror activities or having links with terror groups. At this point, rumors of a military coup have started circulating.
The Gulf countries, except Qatar, are disappointed with the presence of Ennahda as the party has historical and ideological links with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terror organization by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In case a coup is realized or third parties intervene, political instability and further economic decline may drag Tunisia into a chaotic situation.