- Twenty Years of Change: Tunisia’s Journey of Progress Continues
Since 7 November 1987, Tunisia has embarked on an ambitious undertaking framed by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, aiming to position the country among the developed nations. From the beginning, President Ben Ali has been aware of the condition of success of this enterprise: a comprehensive and gradual development approach, taking into consideration the interdependent and complementary nature of the political, economic, and social dimensions.
In this vein, political, economic, and social reforms introduced since 1987 have transformed Tunisia into an emergent country whose achievements in different fields have been praised by international specialized organizations. Yet as President Ben Ali has stated many times, The Change is a continuous process requiring endless and relentless efforts so as to cope with the challenges ahead.1 In this context, the head of state takes, among other things, several annual opportunities to announce new measures to further enhance the economic activity, social accomplishments, and political life in Tunisia. Hence, the measures taken by President Ben Ali on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of The Change to further promote democracy and human rights.
Indeed, on 7 November 2007, President Ben Ali gave a new boost to political pluralism by announcing several decisions regarding political parties, including those representing the opposition. Among the most significant measures, it is worth mentioning the twofold increase of the fixed grant allocated [End Page 1] to finance political parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies, in order to help them promote their role and intensify their activities. The head of state has also announced some measures to facilitate the activity of political parties in public spaces, as far as possible and in accordance with the regulations in force.
On the other hand, taking into account the role of the media in a democracy, President Ben Ali decided on the augmentation of the grant devoted to the political parties’ media, to consolidate their capacity to make heard their voices and make known their programs and positions and to consolidate the opposition’s presence in TV programs addressing national and world issues.
In addition to the elimination of legal submission of books, publications, and artistic works (the legal submission of press publications was abolished in May 2005),2 President Ben Ali decided, in this context, to consolidate the prerogatives of the Higher Communication Council, of which representatives of the opposition parties are members, by making it responsible for following up the performance of media organizations, particularly those working in the audio-visual field, assessing their programs and contents, and submitting suggestions to promote them in a way that meets Tunisia’s national choices and orientations and conforms to the ethics of the journalistic profession and media work.
Moreover, on the occasion of the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of The Change, President Ben Ali, who took the initiative to eliminate, a few days after The Change, the presidency for life, announced many decisions pertaining to legislative and municipal elections, which constitute the cornerstone of any democracy. In this regard, the head of state made known his intention to present a bill lowering the minimum voting age from twenty to eighteen, thus allowing Tunisia’s youth to participate, on the largest scale possible, in general elections. The head of state also decided to strengthen the presence of the different political tendencies within the list of national figures and competences belonging to the Chamber of Advisors, Tunisia’s second parliamentary chamber, as well as within the list of national figures and competences belonging to the Economic and Social Council, a constitutional consultative body. [End Page 2]
The decision to amend the electoral code toward decreasing the ceiling set for the number of seats for each list, in such a way as to make sure no list obtains more than 75 percent of the seats in municipal councils regardless of the number of votes it wins, was equally among the measures announced by President Ben Ali on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of The Change.
The head of state’s unwavering commitment to women’s rights is to be underlined. In this vein, President Ben Ali announced...