Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
History of modern Tunisia

History of modern Tunisia

Discussion
Ask a question about 'History of modern Tunisia'
Start a new discussion about 'History of modern Tunisia'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
In its modern history, Tunisia has become a sovereign republic, called the al-Jumhuriyyah at-Tunisiyyah. Tunisia has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab-Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 is to the north and east, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 to the southeast, and Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 to the west. Tunis
Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

 is the capital and the largest city (over 800,000); it is located near the ancient site of the city of Carthage. During this time, it has been led by two presidents, who have had a significant impact on Tunisian society.

Its first modern leader, President Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba was a Tunisian statesman, the Founder and the first President of the Republic of Tunisia from July 25, 1957 until 7 November 1987...

 brought to the office hard-won political experience, after many decades of service among the leadership of the independence movement. As the major figure of the Neo-Destour Party, he was instrumental in obtaining full independence for Tunisia in 1956. He dominated the government until his removal in 1987. During his years in office, his accomplishments included: a law reform, economic policies which detoured briefly in a socialist direction, a moderate but steady improvement in standard of living, and a foreign policy which retained an independent approach while maintaining trade and economic connections to the west.

Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is a Tunisian political figure who was the second President of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister in October 1987, and he assumed the Presidency on 7 November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état that ousted President Habib Bourguiba, who was...

 became President of the Republic in 1987, and kept power until he was forced to leave in 2011. His economic policies have emphasized a market orientation. His attempt at reapproachment with Islamist groups did not meet expectations. The ruling party was reorganized. Under his leadership Tunisia's economy continued to perform at a pace which yielded a moderate but overall steady rate of growth.

Independence of the Kingdom of Tunisia



An independence movement lasting many decades eventually prevailed, leading to the end of the French protectorate (commenced in 1881). In 1954 the Tunisian struggle and consequent civil disturbances resulted in the start of negotiations for autonomy
Autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

 between France and the Neo Destour
Neo Destour
The New Constitutional Liberal Party , most commonly known as Neo Destour, was a Tunisian political party that was founded by a group of nationalist politicians during the French protectorate.-History:...

 political party (essentially under Habib Bourguiba) supported by the Tunisian labor unions and by the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

. The agreed Convention of April, 1955, stated that France would retain control of the army and foreign affairs while granting autonomy, which was to began the following year. Bourguiba was released from prison by the French to a tumultuous welcome. This compromise, however, split the Neo Destour; eventually it led to suppression of its left wing, and expulsion of its radical, pan-Arab leader Salah ben Youssef, who latter fled to Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. This resolution of intra-party strife signalled that Neo Destour would pursue a moderate path. The French then terminated their protectorate over Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, in order to concentrate their forces in Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. In reaction, and following the strong public opinion voiced by Tunisians, Bourguiba pressed for independence. The French, overcoming the heated objections of the French settlers, eventually acceded and protocols were drafted. On 20 March 1956, Tunisia achieved its full sovereignty. In July Tunisia's application for membership in the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 was accepted.


The French conceived an independent Tunisia as a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 ruled by the Bey of Tunis, Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Muhammad VIII al-Amin
Muhammad VIII al-Amin was the last bey of Tunisia . He was the first head of state of independent Tunisia from 1956 until he was deposed in 1957...

 Bey (Lamine or Amin Bey). The Bey
Bey
Bey is a title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups. Accoding to some sources, the word "Bey" is of Turkish language In historical accounts, many Turkish, other Turkic and Persian leaders are titled Bey, Beg, Bek, Bay, Baig or Beigh. They are all the same word...

 was an institution that dated back to the early Ottoman era. The prior Bey Muhammad VII al-Munsif
Muhammad VII al-Munsif
Muhammad VII al-Munsif was the ruler of Tunisia between 19 June 1942 and 14 May 1943.He was born in La Manouba the son of Muhammad V an-Nasir Pasha. He was appointed heir apparent to the Beylik of Tunis with the title of Bey al-Mahalla on April 30, 1942.Muhammad became bey of Tunis on the death...

 (Moncef Bey) had been a popular nationalist, but Amin Bey was both considered by some to be compromised by the French, by others to be a youssefist. Already scheduled elections were held on 25 March 1956; due to secret arrangements negotiated by Bourguiba with the Bey the voters choose only party lists, not candidates. This arrangement made it easier for the Neo Destour party to keep out any youssefist or other dissidents, and to maintain party discipline. The elections were then swept by the Neo Destour party, whose leader Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba was a Tunisian statesman, the Founder and the first President of the Republic of Tunisia from July 25, 1957 until 7 November 1987...

 (Habib Abu Ruqaiba) became prime minister. On 25 July 1957, the monarchy was abolished, the beylical office terminated, and Tunisia proclaimed a Republic. The assembly then made Bourguiba the first president, of what would be a single-party state.

The Republic of Habib Bourguiba



The Neo Destour
Neo Destour
The New Constitutional Liberal Party , most commonly known as Neo Destour, was a Tunisian political party that was founded by a group of nationalist politicians during the French protectorate.-History:...

 regime sought to run a strictly structured regime with efficient and equitable state operations, but not with democratic-style politics. In effect, Bourguiba commenced to dominate the country for the next 31 years. He governed with programs yielding stability and economic progress, repressing Islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism is a term used to describe religious ideologies seen as advocating a return to the "fundamentals" of Islam: the Quran and the Sunnah. Definitions of the term vary. According to Christine L...

, and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. The political culture would be secular, populist, and imbued with a kind of French rationalist vision of the state that was buoyant, touched with élan, even Napoleonic in spirit. Bourguiba then saw an idiosyncratic, eclectic future combining tradition and innovation, Islam with a liberal prosperity. Habib Bourguiba has been compared to Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal) of Turkey, as a unique national modernizing leader. Yet, what may be called an inclination to arbitrary methods when making government decisions, and to a specie of personality cult, detracted from Bourguiba's insight and substantial achievements.


"Bourguibism" was also resolutely nonmilitarist, arguing that Tunisia could never be a credible military power and that the building of a large military establishment would only consume scarce investment resources and perhaps thrust Tunisia into the cycles of military intervention in politics that had plagued the rest of the Middle East. In the name of economic development, Bourguiba nationalized various religious land holdings and dismantled several religious institutions. While surely a secularist, he did not appear anti-religious.

Bourguiba's great asset was that "Tunisia possessed a mature nationalist organization, the Neo Destour Party, which on independence day held the nation's confidence in hand." It had made its case to the city workers in the modern economy and to country folk in the traditional economy; it had excellent leaders who commanded respect and who generally developed reasonable government programs.


One serious rival to Habib Bourguiba was Salah Ben Yusuf. Exiled in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 during the early 1950s he had absorbed the pan-Arab nationalism associated with the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. Yet as a result of his strong opposition to the Neo Destour leadership during their negotiations with France for autonomy prior to independence, Ben Youssef was removed from his position as secretary-general and expelled from the party. Nonetheless he rallied disaffected union members, students, and others, enough to put 20,000 yusufists into the street during the next congress of the Neo Destour party. Eventually he left Tunisia for Cairo. This was the end of any meaningful opposition to Bourguiba. In 1963, the Neo-Destour Party was proclaimed to be the only legally permitted party, though for all intents and purposes Tunisia had been a one-party state since independence.

Socialism was not initially a major part of the Neo Destour project, but the government had alays held and implemented redistributive policies. A large public works program was launched in 1961. Nonetheless in 1964, Tunisia entered a short lived socialist era. The Neo Destour party became the Socialist Destour (Parti Socialiste Dusturien or PSD), and the new minister of planning, Ahmed Ben Salah, formulated a state-led plan for agricultural cooperatives and public-sector industrialization. The socialist experiment raised considerable opposition within Bourguiba's old coalition. Ahmed Ben Salah was eventually dismissed in 1970, and many socialized operations (e.g., the farm cooperatives) were returned to private ownership in the early 1970s. In 1978, a general strike was repressed by the government with its forces killing dozens; union leaders were jailed.

After independence, Tunsian economic policy had been primarily to promote light industry and tourism, and develop its phosphate deposits. The major sector remained agriculture with small farms prevailing, but these did not produce well. In the early 1960s the economy slowed down, but the socialist program did not prove to be the cure. In the 1970s the economy of Tunisia expanded at a very agreeable rate. Oil was discovered, and tourism continued. Foreign corporate investment increased. For example, Renault
Renault
Renault S.A. is a French automaker producing cars, vans, and in the past, autorail vehicles, trucks, tractors, vans and also buses/coaches. Its alliance with Nissan makes it the world's third largest automaker...

 opened an auto manufacturing plant. City and countryside populations drew roughly equal in number. Yet agricultural problems and urban unemployment led to increased migration to Europe for work.


In 1981 the government allowed a few "officially sanctioned" parties to run for office. But the economy faltered. Austerity imposed by the I.M.F.
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 caused increases in the price of bread; protest riots were widespread during 1983. The Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI) of Rashid al-Ghannushi
Rashid Al-Ghannushi
Rashid al-Ghannushi or Rached Ghannouchi is a Tunisian Islamist who co-founded the Ennahda Movement, currently the largest party in Tunisia. He has been called the party's "intellectual leader".-Biography:...

 came to the fore. Thousands were jailed, especially islamists; critical newspapers were closed, disruptive trade unions disbanded. Security was headed by General Ben Ali. An ailing Bourguiba threatened severe repression.

Tunisia continued its close ties to the West, both economic and political. From 1979 to 1991 the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 was located in Tunis. The P.L.O.
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 was also based in Tunis from 1982 to 1994. On 1 October 1985, in Operation Wooden Leg
Operation Wooden Leg
Operation Wooden Leg was an attack by Israel on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Hammam al-Shatt, Tunisia, 12 miles from the capital of Tunis. It took place on October 1, 1985. Taking place 1,280 miles away, this was the furthest operation from Israel undertaken by the...

, Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 F-15s
F-15E Strike Eagle
The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is an all-weather multirole fighter, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. United States Air Force F-15E Strike...

 bombed the PLO's Tunis
Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

 headquarters, killing more than 60 people.

On the debit side, political democracy in the Western sense was more or less nonexistent. Even before Tunisia became a one-party state, it adopted a constitution vesting almost dictatorial powers in the presidency. Civil liberties were subject to "the limits prescribed by law," per the constitution. The media were expected to practice self-censorship, and opponents were frequently imprisoned. Bourguiba became the focus of a modest personality cult in which he was extolled as the "Supreme Warrior" of the nation. In 1975, Bourguiba was proclaimed president for life
President for Life
President for Life is a title assumed by some dictators to remove their term limit, in the hope that their authority, legitimacy, and term will never be disputed....

, though his health was increasingly poor. Although he was prevailed upon to legalize opposition parties in 1981, Tunisia remained for all intents and purposes a one-party state. The Destourian Socialist Party, in alliance with the trade unions, swept all of the seats in parliament. The opposition was disgusted; it boycotted the next elections, in 1986.

The Era of Ben Ali



In the 1980s the economy performed poorly. In 1983 the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 (IMF) forced the government to raise the price of bread and semolina
Semolina
Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta, and also used for breakfast cereals and puddings. Semolina is also used to designate coarse middlings from other varieties of wheat, and from other grains such as rice and corn.-Name:The term semolina derives from...

, causing severe hardship and protest riots. In this situation, the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI) under Rashid al-Ghannushi
Rashid Al-Ghannushi
Rashid al-Ghannushi or Rached Ghannouchi is a Tunisian Islamist who co-founded the Ennahda Movement, currently the largest party in Tunisia. He has been called the party's "intellectual leader".-Biography:...

 provided popular leadership. Civil disturbances, including those by the islamists, were repressed by government security forces under General Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is a Tunisian political figure who was the second President of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister in October 1987, and he assumed the Presidency on 7 November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état that ousted President Habib Bourguiba, who was...

. The government persisted in following its program; Ben Ali was named prime minister.

Rise to the Presidency



Ben Ali ascended to the office of President on 7 November 1987, after attending physicians to the former president filed an official medical report declaring Habib Bourguiba medically incapacitated and unable to fulfill the duties of the presidency. Two of the names given to Ben Ali's rise to the presidency include "the medical coup d'état" and the "Jasmine Revolution". In conformity with Article 57 of the Tunisian Constitution, the peaceful transition occurred as Tunisia was on the verge of economic collapse and a takeover of power by religious extremists. The country had faced 10% inflation, external debt accounting for 46% of GDP and a debt service ratio
Debt service ratio
In economics and government finance, debt service ratio is the ratio of debt service payments of a country to that country’s export earnings. A country's international finances are healthier when this ratio is low...

 of 21% of GDP, in addition to a bombing campaign and attempted government overthrow, for which 76 members of the radical “Islamic Tendency Movement” were convicted in 1987.

In 1999 Fulvio Martini, former head of Italian military secret service SISMI
SISMI
Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare was the military intelligence agency of Italy from 1977-2007....

, declared to a parliamentary committee that "In 1985-1987 we organized a kind of golpe in Tunisia, putting president Ben Ali as head of state, replacing Burghiba (sic) who wanted to flee".
Bourguiba, although a symbol of anticolonial resistance, was considered not capable to lead his country anymore, and his reaction to the raising Islamic integralism was deemed "a bit too energetic" by Martini: Bourguiba's threat to execute the suspects might have had strong negative implications in the neighbouring countries. Acting under directives of Bettino Craxi
Bettino Craxi
Benedetto Craxi was an Italian politician, head of the Italian Socialist Party from 1976 to 1993, the first socialist President of the Council of Ministers of Italy from 1983 to 1987.-Political career:...

, Italian prime minister, and Giulio Andreotti
Giulio Andreotti
Giulio Andreotti is an Italian politician of the now dissolved centrist Christian Democracy party. He served as the 42nd Prime Minister of Italy from 1972 to 1973, from 1976 to 1979 and from 1989 to 1992. He also served as Minister of the Interior , Defense Minister and Foreign Minister and he...

, foreign minister, Martini claims to have brokered the accord that lead to the peaceful transition of powers.

Bettino Craxi
Bettino Craxi
Benedetto Craxi was an Italian politician, head of the Italian Socialist Party from 1976 to 1993, the first socialist President of the Council of Ministers of Italy from 1983 to 1987.-Political career:...

 had visited Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 in November 1984, being warned by the president Chadli Benjedid that Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 was ready to invade that region of Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 that was crossed by the pipeline towards Italy, if Bourguiba wasn't able to guarantee the stability of his own country. Algeria was trying to diversity his foreign policy, feeling isolated by Spain and by Mitterrand's accord with Morocco and Libya over Chad. For two years, according to Martini, Italian and Algerians secret services worked together in order, on one hand, to avoid that the growing destabilization of Tunisia might spillover in Algeria, and on the other hand to control pro-palestinian terrorist activities in Italy. Finally, Ben Ali was singled out as possible replacement for Bourguiba: as chief of the Tunisian secret services and as Minister of Interiors, he had opposed plans for rough justice execution of fundamentalists. SISMI's action did not have the consent of René Imbot, head of the French secret service, and the USA were not informed.

According to Martini, the SISMI didn't have an operational role in Ben Ali's raise to power, but organized a political move to support politically and economically his new government, avoiding that Tunisia might fell in an open confrontation with fundamentalists as would be in Algeria in the following years.

In 1994, following the Tangentopoli
Tangentopoli
Tangentopoli is a term which was coined to describe pervasive corruption in the Italian political system exposed in the 1992-6 Mani Pulite investigations, as well as the resulting scandal, which led to the collapse of the hitherto dominant Christian Democracy party and its allies.-Popular distrust...

 scandal and the Mani Pulite
Mani pulite
Mani pulite was a nationwide Italian judicial investigation into political corruption held in the 1990s. Mani pulite led to the demise of the so-called First Republic, resulting in the disappearance of many parties. Some politicians and industry leaders committed suicide after their crimes were...

 inquiry, Bettino Craxi
Bettino Craxi
Benedetto Craxi was an Italian politician, head of the Italian Socialist Party from 1976 to 1993, the first socialist President of the Council of Ministers of Italy from 1983 to 1987.-Political career:...

 fled from Italy to Hammamet in Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, and remained a fugitive there, protected by Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is a Tunisian political figure who was the second President of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister in October 1987, and he assumed the Presidency on 7 November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état that ousted President Habib Bourguiba, who was...

's government. He repeatedly declared himself innocent, but never returned to Italy where he had been sentenced to 27 years in jail because of his corruption crimes (of these, 9 years and 8 months were upheld on appeal). He died on 19 January 2000, at the age of 65, from complications of diabetes.

Liberalisation, then repression


Ben Ali initially took some steps to liberalise the regime. He dismantled the personality cult surrounding his predecessor. He also amended the constitution to limit the president to a total of three five-year terms, with no more than two in a row. In 1988, several Islamist activists were released from prison. He also forged a national pact with the Tunisian party Harakat al-Ittijah al-Islami (Islamic Tendency Movement), which had been founded in 1981; later it changed its name to Ennahda (the Renaissance Party). He also changed the ruling party's name to the Democratic Constitutional Rally.

However, Ben Ali's innovative tack did not work out well. Subsequently An-Nahda claimed to have run strongly in the 1989 elections, giving it the appearance of being unfair; reports describe pro-government votes often at over 90%. Ben Ali subsequently banned Islamist political parties and reportedly jailed as many as 8,000 activists. Soon afterward, Ben Ali ran unopposed in Tunisia's first presidential election since 1972. At the time, prospective presidential candidates had to get the endorsements of 30 political figures. Given the RCD's near-total domination of politics, opposition candidates found it impossible to get their nomination papers signed.

The 1989 crackdown led to the restoration of some Bourguiba-era restrictions. Increasingly, self-censorship gave way to official censorship. Ben Ali was reelected unopposed in 1994. After amending the constitution to allow a president to run for three consecutive terms, Ben Ali was reelected in 1999, 2004 and 2009--each time by implausibly high margins (well over 90 percent). While the requirement to get signatures from 30 political figures had been lifted, opposition figures still faced nearly insurmountable obstacles.

By the dawn of the 21st century, Ben Ali was reckoned as leading one of the most repressive regimes in the world. His regime consistently gained poor ratings from human rights and press freedom agencies.

Economic reforms


As president, Ben Ali championed economic reforms that have strengthened Tunisia's economy and increased foreign investment. Since he ascended to the office of President, Tunisia's per capita GDP has more than tripled from $1,201 in 1986 to $3,786 in 2008. Although, growth in 2002 slowed to a 15-year low of 1.9% due to drought and lackluster tourism, better conditions after 2003 have helped push growth to about 5% of GDP. For about 20 years after 1987, the GDP annual growth has averaged nearly 5%. A report published in July 2010 by the Boston Consulting Group ("The African Challengers: Global Competitors Emerge from the Overlooked Continent") listed Tunisia as one of the African "Lions" and indicated the eight African lions account for 70 percent of the continent's gross domestic product.

Stable increase in GDP growth have continued through positive trade relations with the European Union, a revitalized tourism industry and sustained agricultural production. Privatization, increasing foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency and reduction of the trade deficit are challenges for the future. The 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report (Davos World Economic Forum) ranked Tunisia first in Africa and 32nd globally out of 139 countries.

However, Tunisia continues to suffer from a high unemployment, especially among youth. Left out of the recent prosperity were many rural and urban poor, including small businesses facing the world market. This was the cause of mass protests in December 2010-January 2011. It was the worst unrest the country has faced for at least a decade.

Diplomacy


During Ben Ali's presidency, Tunisia has pursued a moderate foreign policy promoting peaceful settlement of conflicts. Tunisia has taken a middle of the road approach contributing to peacemaking especially in the Middle East and Africa. Tunisia hosted the first-ever Palestinian American dialogue. While contributing actively to the Middle East peace process, Tunisian diplomacy has supported the Palestinian cause. As host to the Palestine Liberation Organization from 1982–1993, considerable efforts were made to moderate the views of the organization. Tunisia has, since the early 90's, called for a "concerted" international effort against terrorism. It has also been a key US partner in the effort to fight global terrorism through the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative.

President Ben Ali has mostly retained his predecessor's pro-western foreign policy, though he has improved ties with the Arab-Moslem world. He has taken several initiatives to promote solidarity, dialogue and cooperation among nations. President Ben Ali initiated the creation of the United Nations World Solidarity Fund to eradicate poverty and promote social development based on the successful experience of the Tunisian National Solidarity Fund. Ben Ali also played a lead role in the UN's proclaiming 2010 as the International Year of Youth.

Loss of power and revolution


Starting in December of 2010, Tunisian citizens began mass protesting against unemployment and Ben Ali's corruption. As mass protests grew, Ben Ali declared a state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 in the country, dissolved the government on 14 January 2011 and promised new legislative elections within six months. Later on that same day Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi went on state television to say he was assuming power in Tunisia and said that the President had left the country. Ben Ali fled the country on 14 January at 4:00pm local time on a flight bound for Dubai
Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

 and arrived in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 early on Saturday 15 January, where he was welcomed by Saudi authorities. The protests became known as the Tunisian Revolution
Tunisian revolution
The Tunisian Revolution is an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia. The events began in December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011...

.

See also

  • History of medieval Tunisia
    History of medieval Tunisia
    The medieval era opens with the commencement of a process that would return Ifriqiya, i.e., Tunisia, and the entire Maghrib to local Berber rule. The precipitating cause was the departure of the Shia Fatimid Caliphate to their newly conquered territories in Egypt. To govern Ifriqiya in their stead,...

  • Hafsid
  • History of Ottoman era Tunisia
  • Barbary Coast
    Barbary Coast
    The Barbary Coast, or Barbary, was the term used by Europeans from the 16th until the 19th century to refer to much of the collective land of the Berber people. Today, the terms Maghreb and "Tamazgha" correspond roughly to "Barbary"...

  • List of Beys of Tunis
  • Tunisian Italians
    Tunisian Italians
    The Italian Tunisians were the Italians living in Tunisia who promoted the possession of this northern African country by the Kingdom of Italy and even promoted a form of Italian irredentism of Tunisia during the era of Fascism....

  • French occupation of Tunisia
    French occupation of Tunisia
    The French conquest of Tunisia occurred in two phases in 1881: the first consisting of the invasion and securing of the country before the signing of a treaty of protection, and the second consisting in the suppression of a rebellion...

  • Tunisian Campaign
  • Tunisia
    Tunisia
    Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

  • History of Tunisia
    History of Tunisia
    The History of Tunisia is subdivided into the following articles:*Outlines of early Tunisia*History of Punic era Tunisia*History of Roman era Tunisia*History of early Islamic Tunisia*History of medieval Tunisia*History of Ottoman era Tunisia...

  • History of Africa
    History of Africa
    The history of Africa begins with the prehistory of Africa and the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Agriculture began about 10,000 BCE and metallurgy in about 4000 BCE. The history of early...


External links