Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tunisia and the Extended State of Emergency

President Moncef Marzouki
On January 31, 2013, President Moncef Marzouki of Tunisia declared, after consulting with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Speaker of National Constituency Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafer, that the state of emergency declaration will be extended (Lesley 2013). This decision was contradictory to previous understanding given by Marzouki at the African Union Summit on Monday, January 28, 2013 that the state of emergency would not be extended.  

A state of emergency, basically grants the leaders the special power of intervention. As discussed in lecture is used for leaders of a country to ignore the rule of law in order for that county to function.

The state of emergency in Tunisia was issued in January of 2011 by former President Ben Ali. From then on the usual extension has lasted roughly 30 days until October 31, 3012. The state of emergency was extended to expire on February 1, 2013. According to Aljazeera, this extension was in response to a series of attacks by salafists. There have also been reports of increased internal unrest as well as armed clashes with militant groups.

There are different theories as to the reason behind the most recent extension set to expire March 2, 2013. One reason is because of a recent altercation with police and an armed group in Kasserine. This altercation resulted in the wounding of two Tunisian security agents.

In terms of risk analysis, an extended state of emergency does not help the situation. It reveals a level of fear for the increased stability of the nation. It also provides an image of deteriorating security. Although Noueihed and Warren say, in their book The Battle for the Arab Spring, that "
Tunisia has made more progress towards democracy than any other Arab country that saw unrest in 2011, and has a greater chance than any other of making a relatively peaceful transition" the extended state of emergency seems to hint that the transition is not yet complete (2012).
Mr. Chokri Belaid
Today's assassination of Anti-Islamist politician Chokri Belaid in Tunis, the first political assassination since the uprising in 2011, lead to mass outrage and anger across Tunisia. The BBC reported that the 'Political Front' group that Belaid was a member of is calling for a nationwide strike in protest against the assassination. It seems that instances such as this assassination combined with the extension of the state of emergency will slow the peaceful, Tunisian revolution.


Hiett, P. (2013, February 6). Tunisia PM Forms New Government After Assassination. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from BBC:
Lesley, E. (2013, January 31). State of Emergency Extended Depsite Previous Reports. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from Tunisialive:

Press, A. (2013, January 31). Tunisia renews state of emergency for another month citing regional unrest. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from FOX News:
Tunisian President Extends State of Emergency. (2012, October 31). Retrieved February 5, 2013, from Aljazeera :

1 comment:

  1. The extension of the State of Emergency and the assassination of Chokri Belaid are ominous signs of democratic backsliding. Current protests in the country are escalating and many in Tunisia are calling for the same thing that they called for two years ago - the fall of the regime. It seems that the democratic project in Tunisia is failing.

    However, amid the current turmoil, there is still reason to be optimistic about Tunisia. It has peacefully established an democratically elected government, and has guaranteed many of the same freedoms that are enjoyed in the United States (i.e. religion, speech). Though far from perfect, the basic democratic institutions have taken root in Tunisia.

    It is not easy to consolidate democracy in a country that has only known unilateral authoritarian rule. A quick look at the history of the French Revolution illustrates that such consolidation can be a lengthy and bloody process. France's Revolution took 10 years (1789-1799) and was in extreme peril during the Reign of Terror (1793-1794) in which an estimated 20,000-40,000 people were executed for "counterrevolutionary" activities. The instability of France's new democracy led to the rise of Napoleon Bonapart and an even longer period of authoritarian rule. Yet a democracy eventually took hold in France.

    A lesson we can take from France's experience is that democratic transitions are often quite difficult. In the case of Tunisia, we cannot expect a perfectly functioning democracy to emerge in such a short time period. Democratic consolidation takes time and democratizing countries almost always experience backsliding.

    The vestiges of Tunisia's authoritarian rule will eventually disappear as the country transitions toward democracy. The question is whether it will be a peaceful transition.