Eid Transition

This year the end of Ramadan will not only mark the end of fasting but it will also usher in what promises to be an interesting Fall.  Starting on September 1, Tunisia will return back to ‘normal’.  Shops will resume their regular hours, traffic will regain it’s regular flow, and children will start returning back to school. In many ways the Tunisian and for that matter, the entire so called Arab Spring, has been on pause mode during Ramadan, but in 10 days, for better or worse,  the drama will resume.

Recently, The International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted a very revealing public opinion survey.  During their fieldwork they found that security and economic concerns remain the top two priorities among Tunisians.  According to the report, “internal security was mentioned either first, second or third as the top problem 63 percent of the time.”

We would like to highlight 3 key findings from the survey that we believe will play a major factor in the weeks ahead:

  1. Enthusiasm for democracy remains high, with 93 percent of respondents indicating they are very likely or somewhat likely to vote in elections…”
  2. The overwhelming majority (80 percent) said they would prefer a moderately Islamist constituent assembly, while only 14 percent indicated a preference for strongly Islamist parties.
  3.  The survey shows the National Army remains the most trusted institution with 83 percent of respondents stating they trust the army a great deal.

On our part we are going to monitor (2) important events :  The Political Campaign Picture and the ongoing Libyan crisis.

Campaign Season

The highly respected Carter Center has already deployed (10) “long-term observers to monitor the voter registration process and electoral preparations. ”  We will definitely follow the work conducted by the Carter Center, but more importantly we will monitor any signs of political tension such as a major party withdrawing from the election.

Although political parties have remained busy trying to connect with the Tunisian people the official campaign season is from October 1st-21st.  As Expats, during this 3 week period and to a lesser extent starting September 1st, we need to be on the look out for:

  • Flash Mobs:  Unlike traditional and somewhat predictable protests, flash mobs assemble suddenly usually either in reaction to a breaking news item or information obtained spread through social media outlets.
  • Implementations of Curfew:  As we learned last Spring, curfews can be announced just hours before the actual implementations.
  • Avoiding protest hot zones:  These hot zones include Downtown Tunis, City Ettadhamen, and parts of La Goulette.

Libyan Crisis 

The Libyan Crisis is still wide open and unstable.  As recent as Friday, August 19th, Tunisian security forces fought a gun battle with armed men in pick-up trucks near the Libyan border.

Additionally, the border humanitarian situation and the influx of Libyans residing in Tunisia have arguably presented a harder challenge for the Tunisian authorities.

Now is the time…

Now is the time to get to know your neighborhoods and reach out to your neighbors.  Now is the time to measure your security comfort level.  We’ll plan for all kinds of scenarios and hope that Tunisia will pass this noble test.

The Tunisian Effect Spreads

It is said that the old name for Tunisia was Ifriqya, which was later used to refer to the entire African Continent.  Today, the name is being used  to label  a world-wide movement.  Robert Koehler of the Huffington Post had this to say about the Tunisian Effect:  “It’s getting folks to realize, as Egyptians did, that you’re really only captive to the power of thugs for precisely as long as you believe yourself to be captive to the power of thugs.”  Perhaps, but when you talk to the average Tunisian you quickly realize that they are not very concerned about geopolitics or worldwide protests, their focus and heart is on their country, their challenges, their future.

Encouraging as that may sound, the low voter registration numbers  underline another reality and perhaps  a disconnect between the rhetoric and what is actually taking place on the ground.

Election Challenges

According to statistics gathered by the High Independent Authority for the Election (ISIE), the number of people who have registered to vote for the country’s Constitutional Assembly has increased to 27 percent, approximately 2.236 million out of 7.8 million eligible for voting.  Although up 11% from last week, there are troublesome numbers,  such as the percentage of women registered,  which currently amounts to about “13 percent of the population”.  Additionally, the percentage of registered voters between 21-31 years of age, indicate that they will not participate as enthusiastically as they did during the revolution.  Some claim “that women and young people generally have little interest in politics”, while another camp states “that the reasons are deeper and go even further, claiming that the boycott is intended and not the result of ignorance.” Regardless, high voter turn out and transparency will be the key ingredients to a successful Tunisian election.

Tunisian Election Key Dates

  • July 11-August 14: voter registration
  • September 1-7: candidate registration
  • October 1-21: electoral campaigning
  • October 23: election day

Security Irony

From a security perspective, driving and bag snatching were the two highest security risks for Expats living in Tunisia .  Although statistically this is still the case, there is a perception that Tunisia is at a much higher security risk.  The Tunisian tourist industry, confirmed that  when it comes to security, perception is reality.  According to the Tunisian trade and Tourism Minister, Mr. Mehdi Houas,  “tourist numbers are expected to fall to 3.5 million, compared with 7 million tourists in 2010 who together brought in 3.5 billion dinars ($2.55 billion) in revenues.”

Expats who were in Tunisia during the revolution have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to.  As we witness the Tunisia Effect make its way throughout the world, we can hopefully value even more the lessons and experience that we gained during those challenging months.

The images coming from all over the Arab world, London, Tel Aviv, and Madrid are stark reminders that the Tunisian Effect has spread and spread wildly.  For better or worse, whether overseas or back home, it is safe to say that we are living in a very challenging time period.

Fortunately, we can benefit from our inspiring yet challenging Winter Revolution Experience and adjust smoothly to this “new reality”.

Tunis 1
London 1
Tunis 2
London 2