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Deuxième partie. À la recherche d'un gouvernement local
2.1 La représentation du local par l'élection

The “national – local” DIALECTIC in the Tunisian electoral laws or how to represent the “people” in post-Ben Ali Tunisia

De la dialectique du « local » et du « national » dans les lois électorales tunisiennes ou comment représenter le « peuple » dans la Tunisie post-Ben Ali
Éric Gobe
p. 153-170

Résumés

En s’intéressant ici aux techniques électorales débattues par les acteurs politiques tunisiens, cet article se propose d’analyser les logiques sociales et politiques sous-tendant les solutions proposées par les représentants et les gouvernants de la Tunisie post-Ben Ali pour définir les conditions d’une « bonne représentation » du « peuple ». Ce sont les rapports réciproques entre le local et le national, ou plus précisément entre les régions marginalisées et le centre politique, qui ont constitué l’une des variables explicatives des choix effectués par les gouvernants de la Tunisie post-Ben Ali en matière de techniques électorales. Le surgissement du « local » dans le « national » s’est traduit par l’adoption d’une première loi électorale intégrant la question régionale dans certaines de ses dimensions et par l’adoption par les constituants d’une architecture étatique largement décentralisée. La nouvelle Constitution en prévoyant l’organisation de collectivités locales dirigées par des conseils élus au suffrage universel, a incité les acteurs de la scène politique post-Ben Ali à poser à nouveau frais, la problématique des effets des techniques électorales sur le fonctionnement de la scène politique tant locale que nationale.

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1By focusing here on the electoral techniques discussed by Tunisian political actors, I would like to analyze the social and political rationale underlying the solutions proposed by governors and representatives in post-Ben Ali Tunisia to define what conditions constitute “good representation” of the “people”. In other words, it is a matter of reflecting upon the answers given by the Tunisian legislator to the intractable question concerning the “representation” of the body politic “(Rosanvallon, 1998).

2I will argue that reciprocal relations between the local and the national, or more precisely, between the regions (jihât) and the political center, represent a primary explanatory variable for the choices made by the governing authorities of Tunisia in the matter of choice of electoral technique in post-Ben Ali Tunisia.

  • 1 After the January 14, 2011 events, the majority of Tunisian political and social actors have used t (...)

3The notion of “region” is defined here in a specific sense: that of the disadvantaged areas of inner Tunisia. It was this “local geography” which was at the heart of the “revolution”1. The map of the uprising that led to the end of the Ben Ali regime correlates almost perfectly with a similar overlay of geographic inequalities (Allal, 2012). The eastern coastal regions of the center and north, including that of the capital, Tunis, only joined the popular uprising late in the cycle that led to the ouster of Ben Ali on January 14, 2011 (Toumi, 2014: 62).

4After the flight of President Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia, “caravans” (qawafil) of protesters from disadvantaged regions converged in January and February 2011, on Kasbah Square, headquarters of the Prime Minister, insisting that the regions wished to play a role in Tunisian politics, a role which had previously been reserved as the exclusive domain of the citizens of “useful Tunisia” (al-baldiyya, residents of Tunis) and Sahelians (al-swāhliyya), from the Tunisian Sahel (Hmed, 2016: 76).

  • 2  According to the decree-law governing it, HIROR is “in charge of studying the legislative texts re (...)

5The irruption of the “local” onto the “national” stage during the first two months following the departure of Ben Ali Tunisia imposed a call for a constituent assembly which was organized by an ad hoc institution, the High Authority for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution, political reform and democratic transition (HIROR)2.

  • 3  Draft Organic Law for Local Elections, October 20, 2015, Explanatory Memorandum (in Arabic), Avail (...)

6Charged with drafting electoral legislation allowing the “revolutionary people” to express their sovereign will through the election of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), HIROR adopted an electoral law which integrated the regional issue in some of its aspects. (I). As for the Constituent Assembly’s choice in opting for a largely decentralized state architecture, in response to the “demands of the Tunisian revolution”3, this led, in 2014, to constitutional provisions providing for the organization of local authorities presided by councils elected by universal suffrage, which raised for the first time in Tunisia, the question of how electoral techniques impact local and national political functionalities (II). By affirming the necessary representation of certain categories of the population in the municipal and regional councils, the actors involved in the elaboration of the new electoral law, contributed to the exacerbation of certain national political issues (III).

How best to represent “the revolutionary people”: placing the “local” within the “national” of the 2011 electoral law

  • 4 According to the decree-law of February 18, 2011, HIROR is made up of “national politicians, repres (...)
  • 5 The Authority’s Assembly (the deliberative body) includes 71 members (besides its president) in its (...)
  • 6  Representation of disadvantaged regions and young people are closely associated by the members of (...)
  • 7 Republic of Tunisia, Recueil des Débats de l’HIROR (in Arabic), (hereinafter: HIROR), Republic of T (...)

7From inception, and even before the assembly would debate on the logistics of conducting an election, the question before the HIROR was how best to represent the “people”4. Unable to establish its own representative character on the election (Bras, 2012), the High Authority understood, from its first meeting, that its legitimacy and “revolutionary” character would be contested5. It was up to its members to ensure that the assembly fairly represented the “revolutionary forces”, by broadening its representativeness, particularly among youthful cohorts and disadvantaged regions6, both actors perceived by the HIROR as spearheads of the revolution (Bras and Gobe, forthcoming)7. An order issued by the transitional government on April 5, 2011, confirmed the High Authority, which now counted 155 members, including twelve representatives of the regions (UGTT).

8The issue of necessary representation for the regions and youth would thus dominate the debates on the choice of voting method. From the outset, members of the HIROR assembly subscribed to the sociological perspective of “representation-figuration” (Rosanvallon, 1998: 179-18). In other words, they developed a “descriptive” conception of the elected assembly to reflect “in miniature an exact portrait of the people” (Manin 2012: 146), in this case, the “revolutionary people”. This idealized typology contradicted the purely quantitative “mandated representation”, a prescriptive formula unrelated to the social or professional characteristics of the population. The objective thus became to elect a constituent assembly in the image of the society that brought down the authoritarian regime, not only by allowing the best possible representation of the popular social-economic categories that nurtured the uprisings, but also by promoting an overrepresentation of disadvantaged regions.

9In this respect, party-list proportional voting appeared to be the best avenue for achievement of fair representation, and the best means to reflect “the characteristics of the social structure” (Mény and Sadoun, 1985: 7).

  • 8  A delegation is an intermediate administrative district between the governorate and the sector (im (...)
  • 9 Fadhel Bettaher, representative of the regions, HIROR, Session of March 31, 2011. Originally from D (...)
  • 10 Adib Soudana, a leading national figure, HIROR, Session of April 5, 2011
  • 11   It is clear that all the political formations represented in HIROR, from the smallest parties to (...)

10It should be noted however, that the option of a two-round, first-past-the-post system was supported by a few votes in the HIROR who argued that the winners in a first-past-the-post system would likely be the faithful expression of the “revolutionary people”. This scenario included constituencies which corresponded to single representative districts8. For proponents, the first-past-the-post system would elicit candidacies among both men and women from the “real country” and in particular, among the “natural leaders” who emerged from the insurrection. In other words, “this voting method would allow the personalities from disadvantaged regions that the revolution drove from obscurity to participate in the ANC”9. Majority voting moreover, would have presented a principal virtue, namely that of giving the population the opportunity to select a “personality independent of political currents”10 while limiting the influence of partisan staffs in designating candidates for office11.

  • 12 “Applying a uninominal voting system is opening the door to sectarianism, cronyism and corruption”. (...)

11Supporters of the first-past-the-post method were in the minority in an assembly whose majority was reluctant to reawaken Tunisian society’s “skews”, especially tribalism ('arouchiyya) and parochialism. An open door to the return of historical cleavages, single district, first-past-the-post polling would favor local notables, cronyism, corruption and its corollary, the purchase of votes. Tunisian society, rife with “clan and regional loyalties”, would send to the ANC deputies incapable of higher interest politics because so deeply embedded in local social interests. If, for the HIROR it was necessary to put some “local” into the national it would have to be done in moderation12.

  • 13   Naïma Hammami, Patriotic and Democratic Labor Party (PTPD), HIROR, Session of April 4, 2011, p. 1 (...)

12HIROR members rejected single representative districts with seats distributed according to a single national constituency. The principal supporters for such a proposal were the Patriotic and Democratic Labor Party (a micro-party of the far-left) who did so in the name of electoral justice and the elimination of all forms of electoral competition operating “according to tribal or regional lines of division”13. This method of voting, among other disadvantages, would minimize regional differences. Therefore, the HIROR opted for a party-list proportional strategy, attributing seats by governorates (except in Tunis, Sfax and Nabeul which were divided into 2 constituencies).

  • 14  All members of HIROR who speak on this subject are unanimous. A principle of positive discriminati (...)
  • 15 Yadh Ben Achour, HIROR, Session of April 6, 2011, p. 168-169.

13The party-list approach allowed HIROR assembly to allocate seats in such a way as to favor those governorates (the equivalent of the French prefectures), who had suffered from the public policies that had led to depopulation. As a result some governorates benefited from improved representativeness within the Constituent Assembly. By allocating a minimum of four seats to the least populated governorates (Tozeur, Kebili, Tataouine, Zaghouan), HIROR made these regions overrepresented in the ANC14. The President of the HIROR Assembly, the jurist Yadh Ben Achour, persisted in reinforcing the local base of the party-lists by proposing that candidates within the same constituency be nominated from different delegations15. However, the non-mandatory nature of this particular provision relegated this provision to the category of wishful thinking, just like the paragraph of the article that requires that at least one of the candidates must be under 30 years old.

  • 16 HIROR, Session of April 7, p. 189-190.

14HIROR consensus on the employment of the party-list proportional system of voting at the governorate level was nonetheless implicit. Indeed, it remained for assemblies to allocate the remaining “unsettled seats” according to either the principle of “highest remainder” (Paroutaud, 1963) or the highest average, a choice whose effect on the final distribution of seats is somewhat arbitrary with the former option slightly favoring small parties and local lists. The option appeared, for members of the radical left and most representatives of Tunisia’s secularist currents, as an antidote to the hegemonic ambitions of the only mass party then in competition, the Islamist movement Ennahdha. Anouar Kousri, representative of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights and a member of the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers, a group on the extreme left, denounced the highest average, proportional voting method as “unfair”, and “favoring the two lists polling the highest support”, lists which “could claim as much as 80% of the seats”16.

  • 17 The Progressive Democratic Party (an extreme left-wing organization legalized under Ben Ali, which (...)
  • 18 Noureddine Bhiri, representative of Ennahdha, HIROR, Session of April 4, p. 134.
  • 19 HIROR, session of April 11, p. 235.

15On the other hand, Ennahdha, confident in its capacity for mobilization, opted not only for party-list proportional voting at the highest average17 but further introduced a qualifying rule, whereby a party-list would have to receive a minimum 5% of votes cast in order to qualify for the distribution of voting seats, a strategy that would have given the party a large majority in case of electoral victory18. In the end, the forum assembly, largely dominated by ideological currents hostile to political Islam, voted 76 to 51 to allocate “unsettled seats” proportionally according to the largest remainder19.

  • 20 In 2011, the party that won the elections, Ennahhdha won 37% of the votes cast and 40% of the seats (...)
  • 21 The ANC elections, on October 23, 2011, were strongly marked by a high scattering of votes, since t (...)

16While this method of voting ensures wide representation of all political currents, it is not without its drawbacks, particularly with regard to the majority principle. Generally speaking, the method makes it impossible for one party to gain an absolute majority20 and leads to both a sharp drop in votes and a fragmentation of the political field21. The 2011 elections for the ANC and the 2014 parliamentary elections largely confirmed these classic assertions of electoral studies (Emeri, 1985).

17Thus, in 2015, a commission of public lawyers charged by the government (in collaboration with local community administrators) to prepare a draft for an organic law for local elections, a law that would complete the decentralized constitutional architecture, introduced provisions supposed to prevent frivolous candidacies and ensure the emergence of stable majorities in elected municipal and regional councils.

Avoid electoral fragmentation? The primacy of national standards over local specificities

Making proportionality compatible with obtaining local majorities

  • 22 Informal discussion with Chawki Gaddès, constitutionalist, member of the commission, Jendouba, Apri (...)

18The first tool proposed by the commission led by the constitutionalist Ghazi Gherairi, was to guarantee majority rule in municipal and regional councils by means of a proportional voting system based on strongest remainder and a relatively high electoral threshold of 5%. The government however, overrode the commission’s recommendations and introduced a majority electoral system with proportional correction22. Article 85 of the preliminary draft provided for a single-round electoral system in which the list with the highest number of votes cast is awarded the majority of seats irrespective of its score, the remainder of the seats being distributed proportionally according the largest remainder. This majority principle is further reinforced by a qualifying 3% electoral threshold for seating.

  • 23 Between October 27 and 31, 2015, the Ministry of the Interior launched a process of national consul (...)
  • 24   This is how he qualifies organizations combining “counter-expertise ability” and “issue raising a (...)
  • 25 Gnet, “Municipal elections: The civil society criticizes the content of the draft bills” http://www (...)
  • 26 The main opposition party to the Islamist Ennahdha movement and the Troika government from 2012 to (...)
  • 27 L’Economiste maghrebin “Jaouhar Ben Mbarek”: The solution is to change the electoral system” 11/17/ (...)

19This provision was denounced by various Tunisian advocacy groups, including watchdog “advocacy associations” formed following Ben Ali’s ouster to oversee government action in electoral matters. Invited by the government to give their opinion on the preliminary draft of the local authorities code23, these organizations, then constituted as “Democratic surveillance” (Rosanvallon, 2006 : 67-70)24 considered that the electoral system thus envisaged could not lead to any outcome other than the sharing of regional and municipal council seats by the two main parties on the national scene, Ennahdha and Nidaa Tounes25. Projecting the results of the legislative elections of 2014, Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, the president of the association Doustourna (Our Constitution), anticipated that local elections organized according to this voting method would lead to the geographical division of the country, namely between the municipal councils of the northern region, dominated by Nidaa Tounes26 and the municipal councils of the south dominated by Ennahdha. Mme Jaouhar further added that, because of the dissensions and splits within Nidaa Tounes, local elections would in fact lead to overwhelming dominance by Ennahdha and, consequently, a return to a “single party”27.

  • 28 La Presse de Tunisie, “Reactions of Zouheir Maghzaoui of the Popular Front to the first draft law o (...)
  • 29 Al-Dhamir, “Imed Hammami: Proportionality based on the largest remainder cannot be used for municip (...)

20For their part, political parties without a militant base denounced a voting system designed by the two major parties represented in the Tunisian parliament (ARP)28, especially since among his first statements, Imed Hammami, member of the Executive Board of Ennahdha, proclaimed that the mixed voting method provided for in the preliminary draft would promote “the emergence of an absolute majority desired by the people”29.

  • 30 It would guarantee a “diversified, balanced composition of municipal and regional councils”, and wo (...)

21Faced with negative reactions, the government decided to return to the voting system that governed the first two Tunisian elections, in other words, the proportional distribution of “unsettled seats” according to a rule of largest remainder, without electoral threshold30. So, one would think, ended the majority system. The debates that followed however, both in committee and in plenary session concerning the “right” method to apply, the definition of an electoral threshold, the open or closed nature of the electoral lists and the rationalization of candidacies made it clear that whether intended or not, there would henceforth be a structural division on the Tunisian political scene.

  • 31 Commission du règlement intérieur, de l'immunité, des lois parlementaires et des lois électorales ( (...)
  • 32 The Popular Front is a political coalition that brings together associations and political parties (...)

22On one side were the advocacy groups and the weakest political parties. These organizations saw in the desire to “rationalize” the vote a move to “nationalize” local elections at the expense of building local municipal and regional democracies, and requiring the widest possible participation of local populations. Advocacy groups would use the hearings of the Parliamentary Commission in charge of examining the government project to develop their critical argument31. More particularly, their arguments were relayed within the Commission by Chafik Ayadi, Commission rapporteur and member of the Popular Front, and by Nooman el Euch, representative of the Democratic Movement32.

23On the other hand, representatives of the two major political parties agreed that the new electoral law should help to limit the number of candidates.

  • 33 Commission on Electoral Laws, February 4, 2016, report in Arabic by the Al Bawsala Association, ava (...)

24In February 2016, at the beginning of the parliamentary committee debates, deputies from both parties expressed a desire to return to the initial government proposal. Sahbi Atig (Ennahdha) expressed the opinion that proportional representation would provoke among municipal councils a splintering of political interests contradicting the essential vocation of the local authorities which is to “serve and provide basic public services, not to set an example for pluralism and social diversity”33. In other words, the representatives of Ennahdha defended an apolitical vision of how local affairs should be conducted.

  • 34 This group is made up of 25 deputies, most of whom are dissidents of Nidaa Tounes who decided on th (...)
  • 35 Final Results of Proposed Amendments to Organic Draft Bill N ° 01/2016 amending and supplementing O (...)

25The question of which majority system should apply was raised again in plenary debate of the ARP, and introduced by members of the al-Horra parliamentary block34. Al-Horra introduced in plenary session, an amendment (later withdrawn) which proposed a two-round majority vote (unless a party-list obtained an absolute majority on the first ballot), with the second round being reserved for the two lists polling the most votes, which might then envisage a merging of lists with other parties polling at least 3% of first round votes35. If the bill’s promoters intended to eliminate the prospect that a municipal or regional majority should conceal an electoral minority – a situation allowed under the first government proposal – it had the main disadvantage of requiring, as a rule, the organization of a second round for municipal and regional elections, implying for the government the mobilization of additional material and human resources.

  • 36 The ten deputies of the parliamentary block Afek Tounes, the National Movement and the Appeal of Tu (...)

26In fact, the proposal submitted in plenary session of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People retained party list proportional voting with largest remainder. The government however, did not give up “rationalization” and introduced an electoral threshold. Indeed, the debated text provided that only lists receiving a minimum of 3% of the votes could participate in the distribution of seats. This provision provoked a denunciation by small parties who saw in the law the basis for excluding the smaller parties and favoring the two main formations of the governmental coalition36.

  • 37  Commission on Electoral Laws, April 19, 2016. Report by the Al Bawsala Association, available on t (...)

27The same is true for the method of appointment of the president of municipal or regional councils. The text presented by the government both in committee and in plenary session provided that the president of the council will be the candidate placed at the top of list having obtained the greatest number of the votes. During debates in committee, the Ennahdha movement presented itself as the parliamentary group most attached to this provision, on the grounds that the presidency must return to the winning party, even if the party does not have an outright majority. On the other hand, Chafik Ayadi, the Commission rapporteur, two deputies of the al-Horra group and a member of Nidaa Tounes said that a president nominated from a winning list, while a minority would likely encounter hostility from the majority which would lead to paralysis of decision-making in the deliberative assembly37.

  • 38 The municipal and regional polls are considered an opportunity for associations, local notables and (...)
  • 39 See the interventions of representatives of the Mourakiboun network, the Tunisian Association for I (...)
  • 40 Statement by Rafik Halouani, Commission on Electoral Laws, February 11, 2016, available on the Mars (...)
  • 41 In other words, lists where the number of candidates is less than half that of seats may run for el (...)
  • 42 Informal discussion with Chawki Gaddès, cit.

28With regard to local elections, the provision relating to the constitution of closed candidate lists was perceived by deputies from political formations without militant base and by advocacy groups as a particularly iniquitous and self-contradictory measure if the object was to attract popular participation in a democracy of proximity38. Indeed, the constitution of closed lists means, not only that voters cannot change the composition and order of lists of candidates, but also, that it is not possible to field incomplete lists. According to critics, the closed-list system would amount to reproducing the national partisan map at the local level and restricting the political offer to an offer of proximity candidates motivated mainly by municipal or regional issues. It would be difficult to imagine that independents or small parties could mobilize enough candidates, especially in more populated municipalities where the number of councilors is high:39 “To make the conditions of candidacy difficult by imposing closed electoral lists is to prevent the independents or the parties from appearing in the most populated municipalities where, with 5% of the votes, they could have three seats [...]. If the intention of the legislator is to ensure that the policy is made only by the political parties, let him say so and speak no more of independent lists”40. Precisely, the amendments presented in plenary session by the formations least represented in the People’s Assembly make it possible to submit incomplete lists. Representatives from the People's Front, as well as several independents proposed that the number of candidates be less by at least half the number of seats allocated to the constituency41. That said, it should be noted that proponents of closed lists downplayed the exclusionary effects of the government text on small parties and independents. They argued that Tunisia is mainly composed of small and medium-sized municipalities: nearly 59% of municipalities have fewer than 25,000 inhabitants and 28% of them have between 10,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. In fact, only the city of Tunis attains the maximum number of municipal councilors provided by the government text (60)42.

Limiting conflicts of interest

  • 43 The electoral law of 2014 provided a portion of public financing prior to the electoral campaign. A (...)

29Campaign finance was also perceived as an obstacle to achieving a diversity of candidacies, and securing broad participation from local actors, despite a general consensus that election finance was a good use of public funds43. Article 78 of the bill outlined a method for publicly funding candidacies a posteriori; in other words, that public grants for campaign finance would be paid after the results had been tabulated and against presentation of receipts. In addition, grants would be conditional upon qualifying with a minimum 3% of the votes cast in the constituency for which the party presented candidates.

  • 44 Implicitely Nidaa Tounes and Ennahdha. Commission on Electoral Laws, February 23, 2016. Report by t (...)
  • 45 Al-Sabah al-Ousbou‘i, « Rafik Halouani… », op. cit.
  • 46 Speech by Deputy Ghazi al Chaouachi, Morning plenary session, June 14, 2016, audio recording, offic (...)

30If Chafik Ayadi denounced this funding scheme as “restricting access to the political contest and favoring the parties supported by the ‘bourgeoisie’”44, Rafik Halouani insisted on the plutocratic danger lurking in a Tunisian democracy fallen into the hands of “people of money”45. In plenary session, a number of independent deputies tried, by amendment (voted down), to obtain the reduction of the vote threshold for access to funding from 3 to 2%46.

31The only provision concerning the limitation of candidatures which did not lead to denunciation of the two main parties, concerned the prohibition “for ascendants, descendants, brothers and sisters, husbands and spouses from being members of the same municipal and regional councils” although even this met with controversy.

  • 47 Draft Organic Law for Local Elections, October 20, 2015, op. cit.
  • 48 This is the position developed by two Nahdhaoui representatives in the commission (Mounia Brahim an (...)

32In its explanatory memorandum, the commission drafting the law specified that the purpose of the article was to remove the specter of family allegiances in municipal and regional councils47. Opponents argued that the provision undermined the principle of equality between Tunisian citizens and limited the citizen’s right to stand for office. For the latter, it would not possible to restrict an individual’s right to stand as a candidate for municipal or regional office, simply because there exists a family link with another candidate48.

  • 49 Commission on Electoral Laws, Report on the draft organic law ..., op. cit.

33Chafik Ayadi however, drew the attention of his legislative colleagues to the importance of tribal reasoning in many regions. He invoked the dangers of importing solidarities and clan conflicts into municipal and regional councils while recognizing that the question arises only in certain regions of Tunisia and cautioned against establishing a legal basis to counter this exceptional situation, thus denying “a considerable number of citizens the right to serve on local councils”49. The compromise solution adopted in commission was to limit to two the number of candidates from the same family on the same list of voters.

34The debates surrounding these electoral issues sought to “rationalize” the first local polls of post-Ben Ali Tunisia and to highlight, with some specific Tunisian characteristics, a conflict between the advocates of representative justice and the followers of the majority/minority dyad who might prefer to sacrifice the political benefits of electoral fairness for the supposed effectiveness of a clear majority. The former accused the latter of wanting to monopolize political life and stifle pluralism, while the latter blamed the former for wanting to make national and local political institutions, and by extension the country, ungovernable.

  • 50 From this point of view, “providing for quotas of unemployed graduates or retirees in the assemblie (...)
  • 51 Pierre Rosanvallon, Le peuple introuvable…, op. cit., p. 231.

35Similar reciprocal accusations were made by both parties concerning the new legislation’s positive discrimination in favor of “young people”, women and the disabled. These provisions were presented by their supporters as a mark of respect for the will of constituents and as a means of overcoming the shortcomings of the two previous electoral laws. For critics of positive discrimination, these measures would lead to the exclusion of “independents” from electoral politics. In this connection, some members invoked a challenge to the principle of equal opportunity among candidates and the arbitrariness of the categories mobilized, representativeness and preferred access of one or another social group to elected assemblies50. For critics of positive discrimination, proponents’ desires to remedy the “incomplete and truncated seizure of society”51 in 2011 and in the 2014 polling, would lead, not to fairer representation, but to dominance of local assemblies by the strongest (al-taghawwul). Indeed, the question of whether political parties are able to administer quotas for young people, women or disabled people remains open, especially considering the number of elections organized by local authorities: the electoral laws do not provide for modulation of constraints according to the number of inhabitants per municipality.

  • 52 Zied Krichen, “Local elections: four challenges”, Al-Maghreb, May 31, 2016.

36The municipal text stipulates however, that municipal councils should be comprised of between 12 and 60 members according the number of inhabitants in the commune. This should lead to the election of over 7500 municipal elected officials. At the same time, regional councils should be made up of between 36 and 62 elected representatives, leading to approximately 1,200 additional elected representatives. This means that a party wishing to field candidates in all regions and municipalities would have to nominate about 8,700 candidates meeting the criteria and conditions set by the electoral law (gender parity, representativeness of young people, the disabled, and the obligation for the candidates to be registered voters in the district where s/he will run)52.

Positive discrimination to exclude or to remedy the defects of the electoral laws of 2011 and 2014?

  • 53 HIROR, Session of March 31, 2011, p. 109.

37“The Tunisian revolution is that of the youth”53 declared Fadhel Bettahar, representative of the regions in 2011, before his colleagues of the HIROR Assembly. This proclamation has failed to materialize, despite the declarations of both parties and the implementation of positive discrimination in favor of “young people”. Admittedly, the Legislative Committee of the Constituent Assembly had proposed to include in the 2014 Election Law a provision stipulated that there must be at least one candidate under the age of 30 among the top three candidates on a party list. The Constituent Assembly amended the proposed article and reduced the scope of the measure by stating that electoral lists would include among the top 4 names “a young candidate, not exceeding 35 years”. Revolutionary youth orientation had not resisted the reluctance of small parties dependent on relatively senior executives and activists (Gobe, 2015: 76).

  • 54 The Constitution of January 27, 2014 states in Article 133 that “the electoral law guarantees the r (...)
  • 55 Draft “Organic Law for Local Elections”, op. cit. Youth is also valued in the electoral competition (...)

38For framers of the electoral law on local authorities, it was essential to introduce a quota for young people on the electoral lists, especially since the Constituent Assembly wanted to make local councils a place of learning for youth and a path toward participation in public life54. Further, the text provided, on the one hand, for a “lowering of the age of candidacy from 23 to 18 years concomitant with the age of majority and the right to vote in most democracies”. The framers, on the other hand, specified that “one third of the members of a party list should be under 35 years of age”, and that “the first third of the list should include at least one candidate under 35”55. Failure to meet these requirements would be sanctioned by invalidation of the list.

39The project that was presented by the government in parliamentary committee in January 2016 limited the youthful ardor of the preliminary draft. First, it raised the candidate’s minimum age from 18 to 20 years and then removed the quota requirement for one-third “young” on the party list.

  • 56  The network of the Pôle civil pour le Développement et les Droits de l'homme (Civil Hub for Develo (...)
  • 57 Commission President Kalthoum Badreddine reminded colleagues in her debates that youth representati (...)
  • 58 Two deputies (one Nahdhaoui and one member of Nidaa Tounes) voted against and another abstained on (...)
  • 59 Speech by the Popular Front deputy Monji Rahoui at the ARP, afternoon plenary session, audio record (...)
  • 60 In the 2014 elections, the turnout rate for voters aged 18-40 (53%) was 10 points lower than the av (...)

40This government back-pedaling was criticized by advocacy groups when they addressed the Electoral Law Commission56. The majority of the committee members supported strengthening youth representation on electoral lists57, but considered that the imposition of a youth quota that was too high would be unrealistic. Also, Ehhahdha Representative Monia Brahim proposed a regime which would have allowed young people to be gradually integrated into electoral lists. The revised wording for the government text provided, in addition to the requirement that the first third of the list include at least one candidate under 35, the reminder of the list should include one young person (under 35 years ) for every six candidates58. Once again, the matter of how best to mobilize young candidates remained an open question, and once again, a question of particular importance for smaller parties59. The fact remained that youth were underrepresented in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP); representatives aged between 20 and 35 represented only 9% of the elected representatives and the most recent elections have revealed a marked disaffection for electoral politics among younger cohorts in the central and southern regions of the country60.

  • 61  Statement by Radia Bel Haj Zekri (AFTURD), HIROR, meeting of April 4, p 2011, 135.
  • 62  In the context of an alternating vertical parity, the lists of candidates include as many women as (...)
  • 63 HIROR, Session of April 11, 2011, p. 234.

41Gender parity among elected councils raised similar challenges, although the issue of women's access to elective office appears to have been much more an issue of gender equality and parity than “revolution”. The issue was raised with the HIROR Assembly by two secularist feminist associations born under the Ben Ali regime: the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women and the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD) whose aim was to ensure that the electoral law should provide for arithmetic equality of the sexes61. This led to the inclusion in the 2011 law of the so-called principle of vertical parity62 which provides that “male and female candidates will be listed alternately”63.

  • 64 Chawki Gaddès, “Legislative Elections of October 26, 2014. What do the results mean?” Réalités, 6/1 (...)

42The application of this provision did not however, ensure equal gender representation on the Constituent Assembly; 93% of the Constituent Assembly lists for the election of October 23, 2011, had male heads of list. Of 217 seats in the Constituent Assembly, 49 were filled by women, including 42 from the Ennahdha party alone. In the parliamentary elections of 2014, the number of women elected increased from 49 to 68 because of the concentration of votes from the two main parties on the political scene. In addition to the 12 women elected heads of list, the 56 other female representatives in parliament came exclusively from the Nidaa Tounes (32) and Ennahdha (24) lists who had obtained sufficient votes to elect the second, fourth or fifth on their lists under the principle of vertical parity64.

  • 65 Al Huffington Post, “Tunisia: Associations demand vertical and horizontal parity in electoral law", (...)

43The enshrinement of the principle of parity for elected councils in Article 46 of the new Constitution encouraged some feminist associations to hope that the next electoral law will articulate the principle of horizontal parity on the same basis as that of vertical parity65.

  • 66 Draft organic law amending and supplementing Organic Law No. 16 of May 26, 2014, op. cit.

44The commission responsible for drafting the organic law for local elections proposed to enshrine in the new text, the principles of vertical and horizontal gender parity. This was echoed by the government bill presented in committee, which stated unequivocally in article 49 decies (§10) that “Candidacies for municipal and regional councils are based on parity between women and men, according to the rule of gender alternation for listings within the same list. Parties and coalitions that run in more than one constituency must apply the principle of parity between men and women at the top of the list. Lists that do not apply this principle of parity will be rejected”.66 Thus drafted, the text was far from unanimous. Rejection of a list which does not respect the principle of parity provided for in the last paragraph of the article provoked a debate about the difficulty of achieving it.

  • 67 “It's a political choice, if a party cannot present lists in electoral districts with 60 seats beca (...)

45The president of the commission (Kalthoum Badr Eddine, Ennahdha) based herself squarely on this argument in defending the government’s formulation, considering that once the principle of vertical parity has been accepted, horizontal parity no longer poses any particular difficulties since it implies simply a change in the alternation of men and women on the electoral lists. Moreover, since local elections are based on the principle of proximity, women will be more readily available for public service because of proximity to their places of work and families. Finally, with respect to the difficulties some political parties might encounter in establishing lists according to the principle of vertical parity in the larger municipalities with more numerous assembly seats (60, 36, 32), the government’s draft invited them to focus on smaller municipalities…67 Some of the Nahdhaouiya Commission President’s colleagues were more nuanced: Dalila Baba claimed that parity would be difficult in rural communes, preferring, like Monia Brahim, a quota system. Furthermore, Mona Brahim preferred to apply financial sanctions for failure to meet parity objectives.

  • 68 This speech in the afternoon plenary session of June 1, 2016 can be heard on the ARP official chann (...)

46The Commission voted on the principle of vertical and horizontal parity, but decided on sanctions far less stringent than in the government draft: lists that fail to respect vertical parity will be rejected, while those that violate the principle of horizontal parity will be deprived of public subsidies (within the limits of the number of infringing lists)68. Deputy Leila Hamrouni of the al-Horra block saw in this amendment a maneuver by Ennahdha and Nidaa Tounes, two “rich” parties that could abandon the principle of horizontal parity by paying a simple fine. The government however, in plenary session proposed to delete this provision and restore the principle of rejection of the lists that do not respect horizontal parity.

47Finally, on June 15, 2016, the deputies in plenary session approved government draft and adopted the principles of vertical and horizontal parity (article 49 nonies (§9)), but withheld a final vote on the electoral law. Adoption thus remained in suspense for several months, postponed for national political reasons. The soap opera of negotiations during the summer of 2016 around the composition of a national government was not unrelated to the delays for adoption. Most of all however, it was the President’s party that was not pressed to face the deadline of local elections. The departure of the President’s former General Secretary, Mohsen Marzouk who left to found his own party at the end of 2015, and, following the 1st Congress of the Nidaa Tounes Party, the creation of a dissident parliamentary block (al-Horra) within the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) as well as the recurring crises that regularly sow their lot of resignations or membership freezes, seemed just so many ingredients for an electoral setback.

  • 69 Sabrine Ben Jemaa, “Debate on the right to vote for the military and the police: is the door to pol (...)

48Elsewhere, the national question of the right of suffrage of the military and the police contributed to reviving the “secularist / Islamist” polarization that dominated the post-Ben Ali political scene up to the parliamentary and presidential elections of October and December 2014. Indeed, parliamentarians from Ennahdha, from the Democratic Movement and from the People's Movement as well as a few independents rejected the participation of “men at arms” in the elections, while the representatives of Nidaa Tounes, the al-Horra group and the Popular Front of Afek Tounes strongly opposed the ban. For the former, Tunisia is a new democracy, fragile and easily coerced. For this reason, the neutrality of the army and the police must be ensured. To allow members of the armed forces and the police to vote would be to introduce the worm into the fruit by creating the conditions for their politicization and the possibility of direct intervention in political life. The Nahdhaoui press pointed to calls for a military coup on the Egyptian model of General Sissi, launched in July 2013 by leaders of the Popular Front and Nidaa Tounes following the assassination of Popular Front leader, Mohamed Brahmi69.

49For the others, this ban violates the spirit of the constitution because it deprives some Tunisian citizens of the most basic right attached to citizenship, that of choosing their representatives. This led to a debate on the principle of secrecy of the vote, understood as a way to limit the risks of politicization of the military and the police.

50When the electoral law was finally passed almost eight months late, on February 1, 2017, local elections were scheduled for late 2017. Following the final debate around the text in late January 2017, Nahdhaoui parliamentarians as a whole respected Rached Ghanouchi’s instructions calling on party members to support a provision of “national compromise”, authorizing the military and security forces to participate as voters in local elections, to the exclusion of all the others.

  • 70 Besides Tunis (more than 500,000 inhabitants), twelve municipalities (just under 3.5% of the total (...)

51For the rest, the law as voted signaled the political defeat of the monitoring associations. The law probably undermines the capacity of small parties and local lists to compete in “large municipalities”, even though in Tunisia, these represent less than 13% of the total70. The logic of national policy and the desire to streamline the balloting of the two main political parties of the ARP finally prevailed, enshrining the principle of closed lists, the refusal to lower the electoral threshold from 3 to 2% and the limitation of a posteriori financing of party lists to political formations polling at least 3% of votes cast.

  • 71 Frida Dahmani, “Tunisia: the (too?) big project of municipal elections” Jeune Afrique, 06/09//2016.
  • 72 Youssef Chahed, Minister of Local Affairs: “We used specific criteria to create municipalities. The (...)
  • 73 In other words, the refusal to take into account local “clan” cleavages that would be linked to com (...)

52It should be noted that the adoption of the new electoral law constitutes a first step in the process of decentralization. This point raised questions among journalists concerned about the government's ability to organize local elections and implement decentralization within a “reasonable” timeframe71. Indeed, the ISIE must first create and populate the electoral registers with registered voters, an operation which promises to take some time, if only because it entails the creation of new communes, 25 in 2015 and 61 in 2016, integrating some 3.5 million new municipal (i.e. local) voters72. In the end, the creation of these municipalities signals the fact that fully a third of the Tunisian population under Ben Ali and since the fall of his regime, had no civic connection to their local territory, except through State administrations and national legislative elections. The new territorial divisions have not gone without notice, raising protests among people who feel they have been wronged by the enlargement of the territorial scope of certain municipalities (e.g., difficulties of access to municipal services due to remoteness) or who refuse their “new attachments” which are considered artificial or that somehow fail to account for local social realities73.

53The roll-out of decentralization, properly speaking, also appears to be fraught with national and local political issues. The preliminary draft of the Municipal Code raised the question of advocacy groups; unsurprisingly, questions concerning attributions of authority and the assignment of responsibility between central and local government, the financial resources of local authorities and the participation of citizens in the operational management and the political accountability of the local authorities are presently the subject of heated debate. Forthcoming responses from government administrators and members of parliament will provide a clear idea of the nature and scope of decentralization.

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Bibliographie

Allal Amin, « Trajectoires révolutionnaires en Tunisie. Processus de radicalisation en Tunisie 2007-2011 », Revue française de science politique, vol. 62, n° 5, 2012, p. 821-841.

Baraket Hédia and Belhassine Olfa, Ces nouveaux mots qui font la Tunisie, Tunis, Ceres Editions, 2016.

Bendana Kmar « Entrer dans l’histoire de Révolution tunisienne ? », L’Année du Maghreb 2014, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2014, p. 49-58.

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Bras Jean-Philippe and Gobe Éric, « Représentation et légitimité en révolution : les leçons tunisiennes de la Haute Instance pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution », to be published.

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Gobe Éric, « Système électoral et révolution : la voie tunisienne », Pouvoirs, n° 156, 2016, p. 71-81.

Hmed Choukri, « “ the peuple veut la chute du régime”. Situations et issues révolutionnaires lors des occupations de la place de la kasbah à Tunis, 2011 », in Choukri Hmed et Laurent Jeanpierre (dir.), Révolutions et crises politiques Maghreb/Machrek, ARSS, n° 211-212, 2016, p. 73-91.

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Rosanvallon Pierre, La contre-démocratie. La politique à l’âge de la défiance, Paris, Coll. Points, Le Seuil, 2006.

—, Le peuple introuvable. Histoire de la représentation démocratique en France, Paris, Gallimard, 1998.

Toumi Ali, « Géographie d’une révolution. La dialectique du centre et de la périphérie », in Actes du XVe colloque de l’Institut supérieur d’histoire de la Tunisie contemporaine, Thawra(t). Approche comparée des révoltes et révolutions XIXe-XXIe siècles, La Manouba January 17-19, 2013, p. 55-72.

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Notes

1 After the January 14, 2011 events, the majority of Tunisian political and social actors have used the term revolution to refer to the period when the main protest movements that occurred between December 2010 and January, even February 2011. See Kmar Bendana (2014)

2  According to the decree-law governing it, HIROR is “in charge of studying the legislative texts relating to the political organization and proposing reforms capable of actualizing the objectives of the revolution, in relation with the democratic process” Journal officiel de la République tunisienne (JORT) “Decree-Law No. 6 of February 18, 2011 on the creation of HIROR (in Arabic)”, No. 13, March 1, 2011, p. 200.

3  Draft Organic Law for Local Elections, October 20, 2015, Explanatory Memorandum (in Arabic), Available on the official website of the National and Regional Consultation on the two draft laws on elections and local government at http://www.ccl.tn/.

4 According to the decree-law of February 18, 2011, HIROR is made up of “national politicians, representatives of political parties, bodies, organizations, associations and components of civil society involved in national affairs in the capital. and the regions, among those who participated in the revolution or supported it, who will be appointed by decree of the Prime Minister, on the suggestion of the organizations concerned”

5 The Authority’s Assembly (the deliberative body) includes 71 members (besides its president) in its initial composition: 12 represent the political parties invited to participate in the Authority (one per party). The "College" of bodies, organizations, associations, and components of civil society, has 17 members, one per organization represented, except for the UGTT and Tunisian emigrant organizations (two members). The leading national figures take the lion's share with 42 members.

6  Representation of disadvantaged regions and young people are closely associated by the members of HIROR, as most protest movements were initiated by young rioters.

7 Republic of Tunisia, Recueil des Débats de l’HIROR (in Arabic), (hereinafter: HIROR), Republic of Tunisia, 2012. The interventions of the members of HIROR are in this respect enlightening. A short anthology of quotations from its members highlights a form of unanimity: “the living forces of the revolution are excluded from this assembly. Indeed, representatives of the regions and youth are absent”, Choukri Belaïd, representative of Watad (far-left), March 17, 2011, p. 24; “Young people and regions are excluded from this body. Yet, we need a framework bringing together the regions”, Noureddine Bhiri, representative of the Islamist party Ennahdha, March 17, 2011, p. 25; “It is the young people in the regions who made the revolution, they are the protesters of Kasbah 2 and they are absent”, Moncef Yacoubi, representative of the UGTT, March 22, 2011, p. 38; “We must choose representatives in the regions where the revolution started, that is to say in Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine and Gafsa”, Lakhdar Lella, representative of the organizations of emigrants, March 22, 2011, p. 54

8  A delegation is an intermediate administrative district between the governorate and the sector (imada). Before the fall of the Ben Ali regime, there were 264 delegations attached to 24 governorates, divided into 2,073 sectors.

9 Fadhel Bettaher, representative of the regions, HIROR, Session of March 31, 2011. Originally from Douz, in southern Tunisia, he is the brother of Hatem Bettahar, a Franco-Tunisian university professor, shot dead in the head by the Tunisian police in Douz on January 12, 2011.

10 Adib Soudana, a leading national figure, HIROR, Session of April 5, 2011

11   It is clear that all the political formations represented in HIROR, from the smallest parties to the mass party (Ennahdha), supported a plurinominal proportional voting system.

12 “Applying a uninominal voting system is opening the door to sectarianism, cronyism and corruption”. Rabia Ben Taarit Abid, Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (FDTL), Session of March 31, p. 98; “I warn against the single-member ballot because it does not allow the fight about societal projects”. Samir Taieb, Ettajdid Movement, Id., P. 103.

13   Naïma Hammami, Patriotic and Democratic Labor Party (PTPD), HIROR, Session of April 4, 2011, p. 133-134.

14  All members of HIROR who speak on this subject are unanimous. A principle of positive discrimination must be applied to the least populated governorates. “With regard to the electoral districts it is necessary to give more representation to the disadvantaged interior regions, as for example the governorates of Kebili and Tozeur”, Fadhel Bettaher, Session of March 31, 2011, p. 109; “The revolution began in the interior areas before spreading to the capital. This is the result of the marginalization of those regions that have lost their inhabitants because of this exodus”, Tarek Laabidi, representative of the Congress for the Republic, Session of April 1, 2011, p. 125; "I am in favor of the disadvantaged regions being better represented with the addition of one or two seats”, Noureddine Bhiri, Ennahdha, Session of April 4, 2011, p. 134.

15 Yadh Ben Achour, HIROR, Session of April 6, 2011, p. 168-169.

16 HIROR, Session of April 7, p. 189-190.

17 The Progressive Democratic Party (an extreme left-wing organization legalized under Ben Ali, which has gradually become social-democratized), then credited with good scores in the polls, also opts, at first, for the highest average.

18 Noureddine Bhiri, representative of Ennahdha, HIROR, Session of April 4, p. 134.

19 HIROR, session of April 11, p. 235.

20 In 2011, the party that won the elections, Ennahhdha won 37% of the votes cast and 40% of the seats in the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), while in 2014, the victorious formation, Nidaa Tounes won about 37.5% of votes and has 39, 5% of seats in the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP). See Eric Gobe (2016).

21 The ANC elections, on October 23, 2011, were strongly marked by a high scattering of votes, since the proliferation of independent candidacies resulted in the disappearance of nearly 1,300,000 votes (32% of the votes cast) which were on lists that did not send any representatives to the ANC. Due to the Islamist / secularist political polarization between 2012 and 2014, the number of votes lost was down sharply (418,000 votes) in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Between 2011 and 2014, the Tunisian partisan system slightly concentrated: 19 parties and 8 independent lists were represented at the ANC, while in 2014, 14 parties, one Front, and 3 independent lists won seats in the ARP. The Election Observation Mission of the European Union, Tunisia. Final Report on the 2014 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections, Available online at URL<http://eeas.europa.eu/eueom/missions/2014/tunisia/pdf/150313-rapport-final-moeue-tunisie-2014_fr.pdf>.

22 Informal discussion with Chawki Gaddès, constitutionalist, member of the commission, Jendouba, April 12, 2017.

23 Between October 27 and 31, 2015, the Ministry of the Interior launched a process of national consultation on the draft Code of Local Government during which they invited the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), the media and “civil society” to give their opinion on the draft laws around decentralization. See the report published by the Association for the Promotion of “Democratic Transparency”, Al Bawsala, “Report on the Regional Consultation on the Proposed Draft Code of Local Government (in Arabic)”, available on the Marsad baladia website at <http://baladia.marsad.tn/ccl>

24   This is how he qualifies organizations combining “counter-expertise ability” and “issue raising activity” in the electoral field and democratic control.

25 Gnet, “Municipal elections: The civil society criticizes the content of the draft bills” http://www.gnet.tn/temps-fort/municipales-la-societe-civile-critique-la-teneur-des-projets-de-loi/id-menu-325.html

26 The main opposition party to the Islamist Ennahdha movement and the Troika government from 2012 to 2013, Nidaa Tounes, founded by a strong partisan of Bourguiba, Béji Caïd Essebsi in June 2012, stood until the 2014 elections as a federator of all Tunisian anti-Nahdhaouie political tendencies. The movement swept broadly across, gathering political figures close to the late Habib Bourguiba, the leaders of the dissolved party of the ousted President, the Democratic Constitutional Rally, executives anxious for the smooth running of their business, as well as former leftist militants coming from of the associative movement.

27 L’Economiste maghrebin “Jaouhar Ben Mbarek”: The solution is to change the electoral system” 11/17/2015.

28 La Presse de Tunisie, “Reactions of Zouheir Maghzaoui of the Popular Front to the first draft law on municipal elections” 11/11/2015.

29 Al-Dhamir, “Imed Hammami: Proportionality based on the largest remainder cannot be used for municipal councils. The deadlines for the holding of elections must be respected (in Arabic)“, 11/01/2015.

30 It would guarantee a “diversified, balanced composition of municipal and regional councils”, and would contribute to “create strong links between the members of its councils, their constituencies and the voters” Organic Draft Bill N ° 01 / 2016 amending and supplementing Organic Law No. 14/2014 of May 26, 2014 on Elections and Referendums, Presentation of Reasons (in Arabic), January 11, 2016. See Marsad.majles at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/docs/569fb33212bdaa42423b4d58>

31 Commission du règlement intérieur, de l'immunité, des lois parlementaires et des lois électorales (Commission the Rules of Procedure, Immunity, Parliamentary Laws and Electoral Laws). For convenience we will refer to it in this article as the Commission on Electoral Laws.

32 The Popular Front is a political coalition that brings together associations and political parties who align themselves with the radical leftwing (Marxist-Leninist), Arab nationalism and ecology. In the last legislative elections, they won 3.66% of the vote and 15 seats in the ARP. As for the Democratic Current, it claims to be a social democracy combined with Arab nationalism. They won 1.93% of the votes and 3 seats in the 2014 elections.

33 Commission on Electoral Laws, February 4, 2016, report in Arabic by the Al Bawsala Association, avail-
able on
Marsed.majles at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/56b33e6f12bdaa77b03f4ed6>

34 This group is made up of 25 deputies, most of whom are dissidents of Nidaa Tounes who decided on the occasion of one of the multiple crises of their party to constitute an autonomous parliamentary block.

35 Final Results of Proposed Amendments to Organic Draft Bill N ° 01/2016 amending and supplementing Organic Law No. 14/2014 of May 26, 2014 on Elections and Referendums (in Arabic), available on the Marsad majles website. at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/docs/57d95178cf441257aa88067c>.

36 The ten deputies of the parliamentary block Afek Tounes, the National Movement and the Appeal of Tunisians Abroad file and withdraw an amendment to lower this threshold to 2%. The text of the amendment in Arabic is available on Marsad.majles at: <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/lois/569fb23612bdaa42423b4d56/article/1?v=2>

37  Commission on Electoral Laws, April 19, 2016. Report by the Al Bawsala Association, available on the Marsed.majles website at < http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/5715fff712bdaa660ed6918f>

38 The municipal and regional polls are considered an opportunity for associations, local notables and independent personalities to participate fully in the electoral process. See Al-Sabah al-Ousbou'i, “Rafik Halouani, coordinator of the Mourakiboun network: the rationalization of applications for municipal elections is nonsense (in Arabic)” August 20, 2016.

39 See the interventions of representatives of the Mourakiboun network, the Tunisian Association for Integrity and Democracy of Elections (ATIDE) and the Chahed Observatory for the control of elections and the strengthening of democratic changes before the Commission on Electoral Laws. Report by the Commission on Rules of Procedure, Immunity, Parliamentary Laws and Electoral Laws on draft law N° 01/2016 amending and supplementing organic law N° 14/2014 of May 26, 2014 on elections and referendums (in Arabic), May 13, 2016. Available on the Marsad.majles website at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/docs/5735daab12bdaa7d59e5b732>

40 Statement by Rafik Halouani, Commission on Electoral Laws, February 11, 2016, available on the Marsed.majles' website at < http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/56bc791a12bdaa77b03f5011>

41 In other words, lists where the number of candidates is less than half that of seats may run for election. In the wording proposed by the Government, the number of candidates per list equals the number of seats in the electoral district. Organic Draft Bill N° 01/2016 amending and supplementing Organic Law N° 14/2014 of May 26, 2014 ..., op. cit.

42 Informal discussion with Chawki Gaddès, cit.

43 The electoral law of 2014 provided a portion of public financing prior to the electoral campaign. A first half of the subsidy was paid at the beginning of the campaign, while the second half was released after the election results were announced. Lists having received less than 3% of the votes had to return the public funds advanced. However, most of the lists that did not reach this threshold, never reimbursed the subsidy, hence the proposal to introduce a reimbursement system for campaign expenses in order to avoid the non-refund of the sums paid to candidates.

44 Implicitely Nidaa Tounes and Ennahdha. Commission on Electoral Laws, February 23, 2016. Report by the Al Bawsala Association, available on the Marsed.majles website at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/56cc874912bdaa1f6b0e0ade>

45 Al-Sabah al-Ousbou‘i, « Rafik Halouani… », op. cit.

46 Speech by Deputy Ghazi al Chaouachi, Morning plenary session, June 14, 2016, audio recording, official ARP channel, available on YouTube at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo5WHmD3dOg>. For its part, the Popular Front filed an amendment (withdrawn) where the lowering of the electoral threshold for obtaining the public subsidy concerned regional and legislative elections.

47 Draft Organic Law for Local Elections, October 20, 2015, op. cit.

48 This is the position developed by two Nahdhaoui representatives in the commission (Mounia Brahim and Habib Kheder) and by Najia Ben Abdelhafidh deputy and member of Nidaa Tounes.

49 Commission on Electoral Laws, Report on the draft organic law ..., op. cit.

50 From this point of view, “providing for quotas of unemployed graduates or retirees in the assemblies is just as legitimate”. Speech by Nooman Euch, Commission on Electoral Laws, Session of February 11, 2016, op. cit.

51 Pierre Rosanvallon, Le peuple introuvable…, op. cit., p. 231.

52 Zied Krichen, “Local elections: four challenges”, Al-Maghreb, May 31, 2016.

53 HIROR, Session of March 31, 2011, p. 109.

54 The Constitution of January 27, 2014 states in Article 133 that “the electoral law guarantees the representation of young people on local government councils”.

55 Draft “Organic Law for Local Elections”, op. cit. Youth is also valued in the electoral competition: in the event of a tie between two lists, the presidency of the elected council is granted to the youngest leading candidates.

56  The network of the Pôle civil pour le Développement et les Droits de l'homme (Civil Hub for Development and Human Rights) in Medenine proposed to allocate two of the first four seats to a candidate under 35, while the Tunisian Mediterranean Center and ATIDE wished to lower the minimum age of application to 18 for local elections. Commission on Electoral Laws, Report on the draft organic law ..., op. cit.

57 Commission President Kalthoum Badreddine reminded colleagues in her debates that youth representation in elected local councils is a constitutional obligation. Commission on Electoral Laws, February 18, 2016. Report in Arabic by the Al Bawsala association, available on the Marsed.majles website at <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/56c5f73012bdaa1f6b0e0a26>

58 Two deputies (one Nahdhaoui and one member of Nidaa Tounes) voted against and another abstained on this new drafting of the text. The first, Mahmoud Gouiaa saw a pro-youth propensity without any justification, the second Mounir Hamdi considered the excessive valuation of youth as a legacy of the debates of the Constituent Assembly, while the third, Ahmed Khaskhoussi (the only elected representative of the Movement of socialist democrats) criticized an unrealistic proposition in a context where Tunisian youth was not concerned with engaging in political life Commission on Electoral Laws, February 23, 2016. Report in Arabic by the Al Bawsala association, available on the Marsed.majles website at: <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/chroniques/56c5f73012bdaa1f6b0e0a26>

59 Speech by the Popular Front deputy Monji Rahoui at the ARP, afternoon plenary session, audio recording, June 1, 2016, ARP Official channel, available on Youtube at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IcguWTSuOw>

60 In the 2014 elections, the turnout rate for voters aged 18-40 (53%) was 10 points lower than the average rate. This difference was particularly high (greater than 10 points) in 12 out of 27 electoral districts and applied to the most disadvantaged geographical areas. Election Observation Mission of the European Union, Tunisia. Final Report ..., op. cit.

61  Statement by Radia Bel Haj Zekri (AFTURD), HIROR, meeting of April 4, p 2011, 135.

62  In the context of an alternating vertical parity, the lists of candidates include as many women as men so that if the top of the list is a man, the next is a woman, and vice versa.

63 HIROR, Session of April 11, 2011, p. 234.

64 Chawki Gaddès, “Legislative Elections of October 26, 2014. What do the results mean?” Réalités, 6/11/2014.

65 Al Huffington Post, “Tunisia: Associations demand vertical and horizontal parity in electoral law", 04/23/2014,<http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2014/04/23/tunisie-parite-loi-electo_n_5199135.html>. The combined vertical and horizontal parities mechanically ensure a stronger female presence in the elected assemblies than alternating vertical parity, since the lists of candidates, running for the same political parties must have the same number of female and male leading candidates.

66 Draft organic law amending and supplementing Organic Law No. 16 of May 26, 2014, op. cit.

67 “It's a political choice, if a party cannot present lists in electoral districts with 60 seats because of these conditions of vertical parity, all they have to do is focus on those with 20 seats,” Kalthoum Badr Eddine Commission on Electoral Laws, Sessions of February 12, 2016. This comment was quite condescending, particularly with regard to the small secularist formations that Ennahdha nicknamed sfir fsil (zero comma). See Hédia Baraket and Olfa Belhassine (2016: 297).

68 This speech in the afternoon plenary session of June 1, 2016 can be heard on the ARP official channel, available on YouTube at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IcguWTSuOw>. The list of amendments is available on the Marsad.majles website at : <http://majles.marsad.tn/2014/fr/lois/569fb23612bdaa42423b4d56/texte>

69 Sabrine Ben Jemaa, “Debate on the right to vote for the military and the police: is the door to politicization and instrumentalization of these issues open (in Arabic)?” Al-Dhamir, 06/17/2016.

70 Besides Tunis (more than 500,000 inhabitants), twelve municipalities (just under 3.5% of the total municipalities) with between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants will elect 36 councilors and 32 municipalities with 50 to 100,000 inhabitants, just under 10% of the 350 municipalities will elect municipal councils of 30 people. Informal discussion with Chawki Gaddès, cit.

71 Frida Dahmani, “Tunisia: the (too?) big project of municipal elections” Jeune Afrique, 06/09//2016.

72 Youssef Chahed, Minister of Local Affairs: “We used specific criteria to create municipalities. The most important criterion is positive discrimination” 05/26/2016.

73 In other words, the refusal to take into account local “clan” cleavages that would be linked to competition between lineages (Arouch). Majdi Ouerfalli, “Youssef Chahed anticipates being accused of manipulating the voters (in Arabic)”, Al-Maghreb, May 26, 2016.

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Éric Gobe, « The “national – local” DIALECTIC in the Tunisian electoral laws or how to represent the “people” in post-Ben Ali Tunisia », L’Année du Maghreb, 16 | 2017, 153-170.

Référence électronique

Éric Gobe, « The “national – local” DIALECTIC in the Tunisian electoral laws or how to represent the “people” in post-Ben Ali Tunisia », L’Année du Maghreb [En ligne], 16 | 2017, mis en ligne le 31 août 2018, consulté le 23 septembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/anneemaghreb/3800 ; DOI : 10.4000/anneemaghreb.3800

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Éric Gobe

Directeur de recherche au CNRS, IRMC de Tunis. Les résultats présentés dans cet article sont issus du projet « Problèmes publics et militantisme au Maghreb. La participation sociale et politique des jeunes dans leur dimension locale et transnationale », financé par le Ministère espagnol de l’Économie et de la compétitivité (CSO2014-52998-C3-2-P) (2014-2017).

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