A republic in northwestern Africa on the Mediterranean.
Country in N Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea, bounded SE by Libya and W by Algeria.
The 1959 constitution, amended 1988, provides for a president, who is both head of state and government, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. The president cannot serve more than three consecutive terms. There is a single-chamber, 163-member national assembly, also directly elected for a five-year term (144 by simple majority voting and 19 by proportional representation). The president appoints a prime minister and a council of ministers.
Founded as Carthage by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, Tunisia was under Arab rule from the 7th century AD until it became part of the Ottoman Empire 1574. It harbored the Barbary Coast pirates until the 19th century. It became a French protectorate 1881.
The Destour Socialist Party (PSD), founded 1934 by Habib Bourguiba, led Tunisia's campaign for independence from France. The country achieved internal self-government 1955 and full independence 1956, with Bourguiba as prime minister. A year later the monarchy was abolished, and Tunisia became a republic, with Bourguiba as president. A new constitution was adopted 1959, and the first national assembly elected. Between 1963 and 1981 the PSD was the only legally recognized party, but since then others have been allowed. In Nov 1986 the PSD won all the assembly seats, while other parties boycotted the elections.
President Bourguiba followed a distinctive foreign policy, establishing links with the Western powers, including the US, but joining other Arab states in condemning the US-inspired Egypt–Israel treaty. He allowed the Palestine Liberation Organization to use Tunis as its headquarters, provoking an Israeli attack 1985 and straining relations with the US. Diplomatic links with Libya were severed 1985.
Bourguiba's firm and paternalistic rule, and his long period in Tunisian politics, made him a national legend. However, in Nov 1987 he was deposed and replaced by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In July 1988, a number of significant constitutional changes were announced, presaging a move to more pluralist politics, but in the April 1989 elections the renamed PSD, now the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), won all 141 assembly seats. During the Gulf War Jan-Feb 1991 which followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, there were anti-US protests in Tunisia.
crackdown on Islamic militants
Ben Ali's active repression and alleged torture of Islamic fundamentalists provoked criticism from Western nations Jan 1992. The West saw the government crackdown as a major setback in Tunisia's progress toward democracy.
Changes to the electoral system were approved 1993, introducing proportional representation for 19 of the 144 seats in the national assembly. In the March 1994 presidential election Ben Ali, as the only candidate, won 99% of the vote. The RCD won more than 90% of the vote in the concurrent assembly elections.
Republic of Tunisia · Tunisia