Tunisia. In January, Parliament adopted a new constitution and the country also got a new transitional government consisting of technocrats and party-politically independent persons. According to Countryaah.com, Tunisia population in 2020 is estimated at 11,818,630. The idea was that the government would steer until the presidential and parliamentary elections held later this fall. Independent technocrat Mehdi Jomaa was appointed new Prime Minister.
In the parliamentary vote on January 27, 200 members voted for the new constitution and only twelve voted against. The Constitution was described as an important step forward in the process of establishing democracy in a country that many have described as the only successful exception in the region since the popular revolutions four years earlier. Work on the constitution began as early as 2012, and the final legislation included, among other things, new writings on equality and religious freedom. The prime minister’s power was strengthened while the president’s role was limited.
In April, the World Bank pledged $ 1.2 billion in additional support to Tunisia, funds that would be used, among other things, to build up the economy and facilitate the export sector.
In May, an attack on the country’s interior minister Lofti Ben Jeddou took place in Kasserine in the west. Jeddou escaped injury, but four police officers were killed in the attack by the al-Qaeda terror group in Islamic Maghreb (Aqim). Later in the summer, at least 14 soldiers were killed at Mount Chaambi near the Algerian border in what was described as the most serious attack on the armed forces since independence from France in 1956. After the attack, three days of country grief was announced and Prime Minister Jomaa announced that a crisis group would be set up to coordinate the work against the Islamists in the region.
On October 26, the first democratic parliamentary elections were held since the 2011 revolution, when Zayn al-Abidin Ben Ali was deposed. The choice was between the so-called Troika, consisting of the Islamist ruling party al-Nahda (Reconciliation) and some allied parties, against a number of smaller, secular opposition parties with different political agendas. The election was a success for the largest secular party Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia) with 87-year-old party leader Beji Caid Essebsi at the head, receiving 85 of 217 seats. In second place was the previously banned Islamist party al-Nahda with 69 seats. The turnout was reported to be 61%.
A total of 27 candidates ran in the November 23 presidential election. al-Nahda did not present his own candidate, while incumbent President Moncef Marzouki of the Secular CPR (Assembly for the Republic) ran for re-election. The election result gave Essebsi 39% while Marzouki ended up in second place with 33%. As none of the candidates got their own majority, a second round of elections was organized on December 23, in which Beji Caid Essebsi finally won.
Tunisians commit terrorist acts in France
A 21-year-old Tunisian who went to France illegally stabbed three people in a church in Nice. Tunisia is launching its own criminal investigation and cooperating with authorities in France, whose interior minister Gérald Darmanin is announcing visits to both Tunisia and Algeria to discuss counter-terrorism. Requests from the French side include that people who are suspected of being extremists should be able to be sent back to their home countries in North Africa.
Intensive human trafficking at sea
At least 21 people lose their lives when a boat with migrants capsizes. Many on board are familiar and belong to countries south of the Sahara. They have had or are looking for work in Tunisia but are trying to move on to Europe. Among the victims are three children and seven women. According to Tunisia’s Interior Ministry, 32 attempts to cross the Mediterranean have been detected in a single weekend night and 262 people have been arrested. From the beginning of 2020 to mid-September, more than 8,500 people have been exposed trying to cross the sea. Of these, three quarters were Tunisians (see 13 July), which is interpreted as discontent spreading in society when the political upheavals of the last decade have not led to more people being able to secure their livelihoods.
New measures against coronavirus
Night curfews are reintroduced in Greater Tunisia (with about 1.3 million inhabitants), weekly markets are closed and Friday prayers are suspended to curb crowds and the spread of the sars-cov-2 virus, which has picked up speed again. Similar regional measures have been in place for a week on the coast of Sousse and Monastir. During the summer, Tunisia has managed to keep the number of cases of covid-19 disease down, but a second wave of infection has led to a total death toll approaching 500 and hospitals and other care facilities have limited resources and are understaffed. On October 29, the measures will be further tightened with, among other things, the closure of shrines for a couple of weeks and a ban on gatherings larger than four people.