The authentic dialogue, the compromises, the consensus which allowed Tunisia to overcome its political and institutional crisisThis book is the final product of an investigation launched in November 2014 and completed in July 2015. It has collected first-hand information from stakeholders involved in the national dialogue through 26 interviews with leaders and representatives of political parties, representatives of the Quartet, the mediators of dialogue (UGTT, UTICA, ONAT and LTDH) and figures from the political area who participated in the National Dialogue or have observed it from outside. These data were enhanced by the results of four Focus groups, held in Tunis, Bizerte, Sfax and Douz, designed to gather information on the perceptions of the National Dialogue from a small sample (32 people) of Tunisian opinion in different regions of the country, North and South.A record of a key step in the history of TunisiaEXCERPTThe idea of the National Dialogue has always been in the background of the Tunisian transition. A process which was stirred at the slightest difficulty, at the slightest blockage. A process that was certainly not invented by Tunisia, which was first implemented in African countries such as Kenya (2008), Senegal (2009) or Sudan (2014), but also has been experienced in some Arab countries after the Arab Spring, as in Bahrain in 2011, Yemen in 2014 and attempts in Libya in 2013, 2014 and 2015.We must admit that in Tunisia, the National Dialogue could follow its own logics through. This dialogue could bring together politicians, professional organizations, trade unions and representatives of civil society, as in the “National Conferences of Senegal,” which largely helped unlock a serious political and institutional crisis, a dead end situation, by means and process of compromise and consensus.PRESS REVIEWS- "This book, recently published by The Tunisian Association of Political Studies, scientifically analyzes and sequences The National Dialogue in Tunisia. (...) This Dialogue, which took place after difficult negotiations, was born during a troubled period and considered as the only pacific solution for a country undergoing a transition and looking for references and governing policies. The Dialogue was successful: an elected government agreed to resign and an interim government was created." Hella Lahbib, La Presse de TunisieThe National Dialogue in Tunisia earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015ABOUT THE AUTHORHatem M'rad is Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis. His Ph.D. Dissertation focused on The place of procedures' in multilateral diplomacy (published in 2001). He is Founder and President of the Tunisian Association of Political Studies since 2010 as well as a Member of the French Association of Political Science in 2010 and 2011. With the collaboration of Maryam BEN SALEM, Khaled MEJRI, Moez CHARFEDDINE, Belhassen ENNOURI and Monia ZGARNI.
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First published, October 2015
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Table of contents
I. Maturation of the idea of national dialogue after the revolution
A. After the January 14 Revolution :
B. After the election of the ANC in October 2011
1. Launch by the UGTT of the idea of a National Dialogue Council in June 2012
2. “The Round Table initiative” of Joumhouri of September 2012
C. After the assassination of Chokri Belaid on February 6, 2013
1. Head of Government Jebalis’ Initiative
2. Initiative of President Moncef Marzouki
3. Second Round of the National Dialogue initiated by the UGTT in May 2013
4. National Conference against violence and terrorism
D. After the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013
1. Breach of trust requiring a new process
2. The start of talks for a national dialogue
II. The official start of the national dialogue and the participation of actors
A. The involvement of members of the Quartet in the role of moderator
1. The Quartet: three plus one
2. The idea of the Quartet
B. Wide support for participation in the National Dialogue
1. National support
2. International Support
C. Ennahda’s conditions for withdrawal of government
1. Uncompromising position of Ennahda
2. The spectrum of the political vacuum
D. The refusal of CPR: inconclusive reasons
E. The question of unrepresented parties in the National Dialogue
III. The agreement on the roadmap
A. Roadmap history
B. A timetable for completion of the Constituent Assembly work
C. A timetable for the replacement of the government
D. The search for Guarantees by Ennahda
IV. The question of government
A. The resignation of Ali Laârayedh’s government
B. The choice of the new Prime Minister Mehdi Jemaa
C. The choice of interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou and the Secretary of State responsible for security
V. The constitutional question
A. The agreement of Dar Dhiafa
B. Rejection of 1 June version and the Commission of consensus
C. Secondary Role of National Dialogue
VI. The election issue
A. The coincidence or separation of legislative and presidential elections
B. The other questions relating to the management of elections
VII. The leadership within the National Dialogue
A. The compelling Leadership of Houcine Abbassi
B. Positive Role of Wided Bouchamaoui
C. The Decisive role of Rached Ghannouchi
D. The influence of Beji Caid Essebsi
VIII. The issue of the institutionalization of the National Dialogue
A. Attempts to institutionalize the ND
B. Refusal of the majority of participants
C. A “dialogue on stand-by”
IX. The National Dialogue perception by the public opinion
A. The National Dialogue: a “cake sharing” policy
B. Claiming for an economic and social national dialogue
X. The teachings of the Tunisian National Dialogue after the revolution
A. The main achievements of National Dialogue
B. A country saved by a compromise between opposing parties
C. Appropriate selection of the Quartet components
D. Decisive leadership of Abbassi, Essebsi and Ghannouchi
E. The role of international and regional factors
List of Interviewees
List of focus groups
LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
ANC: National Constituent Assembly
DN: National Dialogue
IDEA: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
ISIE: the Independent High Authority for the Elections
LTDH: Tunisian League for Human Rights
OI: International organization
ONAT: Tunisian Bar Association
NGO: Non-governmental organization
UNDP: United Nations Development Program
EU: European Union
UGTT: General Union of Tunisian Workers
UTAP: Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries
UTICA: Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts
Afek: Afek Tounes
CPR: Congress for the Republic
Ettakatol: Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties
Jabha: Popular Front
Joumhouri: Republican Party
Nida : Nida Tounes (Call for Tunisia)
PPDU: unified Democratic Patriots Party
RCD: Democratic Constitutional Rally
UPL: Free Patriotic Union
UPT: Union for Tunisia
This book is the final product of an investigation conducted as part of a partnership project about the National Dialogue in Tunisia, between the Tunisian Association of Political Studies (ATEP) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent institution created by the US Congress.
This field investigation was launched in November 2014 and completed in July 2015, it took place over eight months, has collected first-hand information from stakeholders involved in the national dialogue, conducted 26 interviews with leaders and representatives of political parties, representatives of the Quartet, the mediators of dialogue (UGTT, UTICA, ONAT and LTDH) and figures from the political area who participated in the National Dialogue or have observed it from outside. These data were enhanced by the results of four Focus groups, held in Tunis, Bizerte, Sfax and Douz, designed to gather information on the perceptions of the National Dialogue from a small sample (32 people) of Tunisian opinion in different regions of the country, North and South.
This survey is transcribed in three languages (French, Arabic and English). The Arabic translation was carried out by Khaled Mejri, the English translation was provided by Belhassen Ennouri and Monia Zgarni. The final report, presented in this book. It was written by Hatem M’rad with the collaboration of the steering committee, based on the 26 interviews carried out by the whole team, and four Focus groups respectively led by Maryam Ben Salem Khaled Mejri, Belhassen Ennouri and Monia Zgarni. The final report in French is followed by the Synthesis report of the four Focus groups developed by Maryam Ben Salem and Khaled Mejri. This Report is presented only in the French version.
Methodologically, for objectivity and impartiality concerns, great importance has been given in this report to various statements made by personalities and participants in the National Dialogue. Even in our own analysis, we tried, wherever possible; to bring out first the positions of the participants in the National Dialogue themselves. The investigation initially wanted to be the echo of their positions, the reflection of the conception they had of the dialogue, compromise, conflict and concessions. This book is their story, the fruit of their actions and negotiations, which managed to get the country out of a serious political crisis.
We would like to thank all the politicians and all the mediators of the Quartet who agreed to answer our questions in these interviews, as well as civil society actors who participated in the focus groups. There are few personalities who declined our offer of the interviews, as they were aware of the importance of the National Dialogue in political and social life, which is the product of their negotiations. An identical question guide was distributed to our staff in this investigation, containing the basic questions to be asked during the interview, which may justify thereafter the plan design of the whole work. Yet, every interviewer also had to adapt himself to the political actors’ responses and to ask more specific, additional questions, ones related to the type of interview and the interviewee.
The investigation in this project was conducted by a team of 10 people. The steering committee is made up of 6 people:
- Hatem M’rad, Project Steering chief, Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis, President of the ATEP.
- Maryam Ben Salem, Doctor of Political Science, junior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Political and Economic Sciences of Sousse, Vice President of ATEP.
- Khaled Mejri, PhD in public law, junior lecturer at the Faculty of Legal and Political and Social Sciences of Tunis, Secretary General of the ATEP.
- Moez Charfeddine, assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis, treasurer of the ATEP.
- Belhassen Ennouri, Attorney at law, PhD candidate in Political Sciences, member of the ATEP.
- Monia Zgarni, PhD candidate in political sciences, member of the ATEP.
The ATEP steering committee was assisted by the doctoral students in political science, Wiem Mohsni, Haifa Ben Chiekha, and master students, Ahmed Ben Tâarit (Master of Political Science) and Souhir Chaari (common law master) to whom the steering committee extends its warmest thanks for their serious collaboration.
Finally, the steering committee would like to thank the United States Institute of Peace for the support it has given them throughout the investigation, and in particular to two representatives of the USIP : Elisabeth Murray (Senior Program Officer) and Mr. Daniel Brumberg (Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University in Washington DC).
The idea of the National Dialogue has always been in the background of the Tunisian transition. A process which was stirred at the slightest difficulty, at the slightest blockage. A process that was certainly not invented by Tunisia, which was first implemented in African countries such as Kenya (2008),1 Senegal (2009)2 or Sudan (2014 ),3 but also has been experienced in some Arab countries after the Arab Spring, as in Bahrain in 2011,4 Yemen in 20145 and attempts in Libya in 2013, 2014 and 2015.6
We must admit that in Tunisia, the National Dialogue could follow its own logics through. This dialogue could bring together politicians, professional organizations, trade unions and representatives of civil society, as in the “National Conferences of Senegal,”7which largely helped unlock a serious political and institutional crisis, a dead end situation, by means and process of compromise and consensus.
The second half of 2013 was indeed a troubled, dangerous and bloody period in the Tunisian transition. The confrontation between Islamists and secularists reached its peak following the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013, which occurred after the assassination of Chokri Belaid on February 6th of the same year. Brahmi and Belaid were two charismatic leaders of the Left (Front People). A major political crisis between two irreconcilable camps resulted from those events. The crisis involved the suspension of the work of the ANC following the sit-in of “Errahil” (departure) outside the headquarters of the ANC in Bardo, which was provoked by some sixty members from the opposition, who were soon joined by thousands of people from civil society.8 The ANC elected dissidents indeed decided to establish the sit-in of Errahil. They were demanding the fall of the “troika government” and the ANC dissolution.9 Ennahdha, the ruling part, considered that an agreement could be reached on the issue of the government. However, the dissolution of the ANC, which is democratically elected (in the elections of October 23rd 2011), and the only legitimate institution in the transition, remains an untouchable red line.
Noting the political deadlock between the majority and the opposition, the confusion and impatience of the civil society, the Quartet was formed around the powerful UGTT, and proposed a roadmap for all the political partners for a national Dialogue aiming to discuss and resolve the serious political and constitutional problems that caused that blockage. The National Dialogue has been especially accepted by both the majority and the opposition as there already was a National Dialogue Initiative, advanced by the UGTT since June 18, 2012.
The idea of the National Dialogue involved the idea of political compromise. It is true that the art of compromise is not usually rooted in the Arab-Muslim culture, but Tunisia seems more equipped than the other Arab countries to handle a democratic compromise.10 An editorial in the newspaper Le Monde, dated 23 December 2014, commenting on the recent presidential elections, says: “in the Arab world, it (Tunisia) is neither a giant oil well nor a supply of natural gas. It is neither a military power enjoying a form of regional preponderance, nor a nation obsessed with any religious messianism. The case is rather rare. Tunisia stands out for something else: a special aptitude for political compromise. “11
For which reason, even in the absence of significant experience in political cooperation, was Tunisia more “capable” to make political compromise?
The reasons are well rooted in the old history of Tunisia, crossroads of civilizations, marked from the beginning by the commercial mentality of its founders, the Phoenicians, from ancient Carthaginian to the penetration of Islam of the Ottoman Empire to the “soft” colonization without losing its personality. The leader Bourguiba, builder of a modern civil state, believing in reason and progress, has been able to implement at a political level the spirit of tolerance, dialogue, based on methods become characteristic of Tunisian politics: dialogue and realism rather than confrontation.
Under the rule of the autocrat Bourguiba, “the dialogue was a positive factor in building modern Tunisia and establishing the state’s authority. Moreover, the dialogue has existed from colonization as to the UGTT, it is a tradition for them, “as noted by Mohamed Hedi Lakhzouri, member of the UGTT and Rapporteur of the National Dialogue.12 In 1981, a plural legislative election could occur. It was preceded by debates and frank discussions between the parties to the media and on television. But the experience soon failed because of the electoral fraud that ended the opening process. Subsequently to that experience, Bourguiba ended the dialogue.
Under the reign of the despot Ben Ali, compromise, dialogue or consensus attempts have taken place between the ruling party, the opposition and civil society. In 1988, a National Pact, some months after Ben Ali’s access to power, was discussed and signed by all parties (including Islamists), large professional organizations and civil society. Signed on 7 November 1988, the Pact has fueled free debates of opinion in the press13 and on national television.14 After a year that witnessed democratic practices and the expression of some freedoms, Ben Ali managed to gather the different parties and civil society in the National Pact. This same Pact announced the creation of a national unity government.15 Unfortunately, the lack of access of the opposition to parliament in the 1989 elections, and the political lock that followed, made the opposition and civil society doubtful of the intention of real openness of the political power.
Dialogue, albeit limited, has in fact, never ceased under Ben Ali, among the opposition parties themselves. One may therefore conclude that the “18 October Movement”, which brought together opposition parties, secularists and Islamists, the LTDH and other activists during the period of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, to denounce the police and despotic character of the Ben Ali regime, was a form of dialogue among the opposition parties facing a power that refused the principle itself. According to Ahmed Najib Chebbi, one of its initiators, this movement has taken the form of “a hunger strike for three demands: freedom of expression, freedom of association and the general amnesty. But we knew we could achieve that and we could build political alliances, unless you initiate a debate on issues that divided us. And there was the forum of 18 October, which discussed all issues that emerged in 2014 and were part of the Tunisian reformism “.16 Similarly, for Abdelwahab El Héni, one of the actors of this movement and for whom this was “a framework for discussion of different political figures and parties on issues such as democracy, elections, rights of women, the judicial independence “.17
Indeed, unlike other opposition political parties in the Arab world (Algeria, Morocco), where the secular opposition and the Islamist opposition did not maintain links, in Tunisia, the links between activists and opposition parties, without exception, have been in regular contact and follow political debates. In the absence of dialogue between the government and the opposition, which has became inconceivable because of the authoritarian regime of Ben Ali, there was an ongoing dialogue, albeit limited, between all the opposition parties.18
We must also say that socially and economically, a policy based on the negotiation of “collective agreements” between government, the UGTT and UTICA could be maintained. These collective agreements tended to negotiate wage increases, for each three years between the social stakeholders, for both the private sector and the public sector. Every three years, the social stakeholders find themselves with the government to negotiate a new wage policy. This policy, which allowed Ben Ali to find a compensation for the imbalanced political system, was able to achieve a relative social peace although artificial and forced, in the absence of political freedom.
Certainly, the national dialogue is rooted in historical, social, political and union traditions of Tunisia. But it is not only that. This report, in addition to cultural and historical variables in which this dialogue is rooted, above all attempted to focus on micro-political variables, including strategic roles of actors (political leaders) and their choices in times of polarization and political uncertainty,19 while highlighting the pre-existing and present structural constraints and how complex conflicting strategies are set up and lead to a balance (how actors review their objectives in the conflict and according to various factors, including the Egyptian crisis, foreign influence).20 The DN appears to be a solution for balance that has emerged following a crisis and has succeeded somehow through this game of actors, without yet giving them a decisive ability to control the process. They also often correspond to default choices21 issued from the consultations and the constraints on the majority and the opposition, which eventually prevail in the national dialogue, as discussed below.
The National Dialogue also mainly resulted from the shift appearing between the voters’ and the new power relationships that have emerged in the country. As the ANC president, Mustapha Ben Jaafar recognizes, “We had to find a compromise between the indisputable respect for institutions resulting from the ballot boxes, avoid calling into question their legitimacy, and at the same time listen to civil society and to those changes made in the political arena. The National Dialogue was to bring together the political forces not represented in the ANC.” 22
This national dialogue could take place because it tended to prevent the use of violent solutions, precisely after the intensity of the shift. Therefore, as Mourad Amdouni, Popular Front ANC member, stated “many members believed in the importance of the project which deserves sacrifices. We could save the country only through dialogue and concessions.” 23
However, the idea of national dialogue did not appear obvious at once in the consciousness of political actors and civil society. It went through several phases in relation to the seriousness of the political events. That is why it has been difficult for the mediators to convince all parties to join the national dialogue.24
In this report, we will not insist on two or three themes, as it is customary to be in academic writings. Instead, we will proceed by enumeration, first because of the diversity of topics related to a great historical experience, all worthy of interest, and then because of the nature of this report resulting from a field investigation. Thus, the topics to be discussed here will relate to several issues: the maturation of the idea of national dialogue, its development, the nature of the involvement of stakeholders, the road map for the negotiations, the withdrawal of the government of Laârayedh , the appointment of the new head of government Mehdi Jemaa, constitutional and electoral issues, perception of ND by the public opinion. We finalize our report by attempting to draw significant lessons from our study illustrating the specificity of the experience of the National Dialogue in Tunisia.
1 “The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation: Building a Progressive-Kenya Background Note”. Report from African Union, Government of Kenya;relief.int/report/kenya/kenya-national-dialogue-and-reconciliation-building-progressive-kenya-background-note (30 November 2011).
2 “National Conference in Senegal. Summary “www.pressafrik.com/attachment/143099/ (Saturday, May 23, 2009).
3 «Le dialogue national soudanais : exercice d’échauffement,» Le Mag ‘of East Africa, marionurban.com/2014/07/03/le-dialogue-national-soudanais-exercice-dechauffement/ (O3 / 07 /2014)
4 Beaugrand (C.), «Bahreïn : le dialogue est mort, vive le dialogue» http://orientxxi.info/magazine/bahrein-le-dialogue-est-mort-vive,0508. (5 February 2014).
5 “Lessons Learned Process in Yemen’s National Dialogue” uisp.org/publications/ process-lessons-in-yemen-s-national-dialogue (february 7, 2014).
6 « Libye : lancement d’une initiative de dialogue national », www.letemps.ch/Page/Uuid/3c54f3d8-0d9c-11e3-a2cd-ec68026558b9/Libye_lancement_dune_initiative_de_dialogue_national.
7 “National Conference in Senegal. Summary “, op.cit.
8 They organized a human chain, upon the call of demonstrators of “Errahil” witnessed the participation of thousands of citizens who have given the hand to peacefully support the demands of the demostrators in Errahil. Y.B. « Chaîne humaine le Bardo-La Kasbah : un succès populaire », 31/08/2013. www.leconomistemaghrebin.com/2013/08/31/chaine-humaine-le-bardo-la-kasba-un-succes-populaire/
9 « Tunisie : Les élus dissidents réaffirment la poursuite du sit-in Errahil », 31 août 2013, in website Babnet Tunisia. www.babnet.net/cadredetail-70664.asp.
10M’rad (H.), »Le difficile apprentissage du compromis démocratique par Ennahdha », in Les islamistes et la conquête démocratique du pouvoir, IV Conferences of the ATEP, Tunis, 2012, pp.31-47 ; see also Ben Achour (Y.), »Remédier aux dangers du vote et du gouvernement majoritaires. Le recours au Tawâfuq », in the same book, pp.49-60.
11 « Démocratie, l’exemple vient de Tunisie » (unsigned article), Le Monde, 23 december 2014. www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2014/12/23/l-exemple-vient-de-tunisie_4545532_3212.html?xtmc.
12 Interview with Mohamed Hédi Lakhzouri, (UGTT), 6/1/2015.
13 Excerpts of the National Pact, “We, representatives of political parties, social and professional organizations, gathered to mark the first anniversary of November 7, adopt this National Pact, we commit to take inspiration from it in our work to comply with its moral and its provisions, to preach its principles and objectives and to consider it as a common contract between us, and it shall be able to unite Tunisians around the same consensus, particularly in this transitional and decisive phase and that our country is living to establish democracy and strengthen the rule of law, requiring from us a minimum of understanding and concord ... “.
14 The debate was attended by Hamed Karoui (RCD) Ahmed Mestiri (MDS), Mohamed Harmel (PCT), Jalloul Azzouna (PUP) Mohamed Charfi, who was the editor of the Pact (LTDH), Ahmed Najib Chebbi (PSP), Slaheddine Jourchi (journalist), Moncer Rouissi (university professor), Abdelkader Zghal (university professor). Hamma Hammami (POCT) and Tijani Harsha were invited but did not attend. Hriz (M.H.), Le Pacte national. Réflexions, Tunis, STD, 1988 ; see also Chelli (H.), « le Pacte national du 7 novembre
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