Tunisia Vacation Trips
Tunisia Present-day politics
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Tunisia is a procedural democracy. On paper it is a republican presidential system characterized by bicameral parliamentary system, including the Chamber of Representatives and the Chamber of Advisors. Authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, previously a military figure, has been in office since 1987, the year he acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office. Prior to that moment Ben Ali was Bourguiba's minister. The day of the succession, 7th of November, is celebrated by the state as national holiday, with many public building's and even the national currency and the only private airline and TV station carrying the '7 November' logo.
In Tunisia, the President is re-elected with enormous majorities every 5-year terms. He appoints a Prime Minister and cabinet, who play a minor role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators also are appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected with most seats going to the President's party. There is a bicameral legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies, which has 182 seats, 20% of which are reserved for opposition parties and the Chamber of Advisors which is composed of representatives of political parties, professional organisations patronised by the President and by personalities appointed by the president of the Republic. Both chambers are composed of more than 20% women, making it one of the rare countries in the Arab world where women enjoy equal rights. Incidentally, it is also the only country in the Arab world where polygamy is forbidden by law. This is part of a provision in the country’s Code of Personal Status which was introduced by the former president Bourguiba in 1956.
The judiciary is not independent in constitutional matters and often corrupt in civil cases. The military does not play an obvious role in politics letting the ex-army man President run the country. Hundreds of thousands of young men avoid compulsory conscription and live with the constant fear of arrest although it appears that the police only go after them in certain times of the year only and often let them go if a sufficient bribe is paid.
The regime repeatedly passes laws that make it appear democratic to outsiders. Since 1987, Tunisia has reformed its political system several times. It has formally abolished life presidency and opened up the parliament to opposition parties. In reality, however, all power is monopolized formally by the President and his party - which incidentally is housed in Tunis's tallest tower - and informally by influential families such as the all powerful Trabelsis from the President's wife's side, Leila, a former coiffeuse. Recently Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who are accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina
The President's party, known as the Constitutional Democratic Rally in French, is composed of about 2 million members and more than 6000 representations throughout the country and is largely overlapping with all important state institutions. Although the party was renamed, its policies are still considered to be largely secular. There are currently eight other small 'political parties' in Tunisia, six of whom are represented in Parliament giving a semblance of legitimacy. Since 2007, all political parties represented in parliament benefit from state subsidies to cover the rising cost of paper and to expand their publication. In July 2008, new constitutional provisions have been voted by the country’s 'parliament'.
In reality no-one ever has ever openly launched criticism of the regime and all protest is severely suppressed and does not get reported in the media. Self-censorship is widespread with people fearing the police which is present everywhere and frequently stops and searches individuals and vehicles - often demanding small amounts of bribe money to make up for their meagre salaries. Daily newspapers run eulogistic articles praising the President whose picture graces the first page on a daily basis. Large pictures of President Ben Ali and 'spontaneously' erected banners praising him are found on all public buildings and majors streets.
The internet is severely restricted, including sites like YouTube. Nevertheless the internet has witnessed a considerable development with more than 1,1 million users and hundreds of internet cafes, known as ‘publinet.’ This is primarily related to the widespread unemployment and lack of democracy and opportunities resulting in millions of bored unemployed graduates. Independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have documented that rights are not respected.
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