Democracy in Tunisia Essay

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  • Subject: Government
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  • Paper: #20114321

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Democracy in Tunisia

Democratization is a process that involves a transition advocated by either people, or political leaders who eliminate authoritarian systems and created democratic systems of government. However, in most cases, the people initiated the change, which the political leaders had no, option, but join the people (Huntington 109). Owing to the many forms of democratic regimes, variations are inevitable. Some of the regimes include parliamentary and presidential regimes. Some are a combination of presidential and parliamentary which further create two-party and multiparty systems (Huntington 109). Notably, all democratic systems are central to an election, which allows people to choose their leaders. Therefore, they have similar institutional elements (competitive elections that establish their identity) unlike authoritarian regimes, which lack an institutional element.

Although Huntington (109) suggests that presidential and parliamentary systems are forms of democratic regimes, Horowitz (73) suggests that both systems are capable of causing potential conflict. This is because either a presidential candidate is elected or not. The separation of power evident between the parliament and the president promotes conflict. However, the parliamentary system has the capacity to change leaders, whereas the presidential system may produce weak leaders and advocates for competitive lections, whereby one candidate may influence the society by polarizing it. Horowitz further suggests that a parliamentary system was responsible for the authoritarian regime in Africa because anyone with a majority of representatives in the legislature was able to seize the state (74).

The only democratic institution in the parliamentary systems is the parliament. In such a regime, the parliament's confidence entirely dictates the president's authority (Linz 53). Even though this system may include presidents elected by a popular majority, prime ministers tend to have more power (Linz 53). On the other hand, presidential systems include an executive elected by people for a fixed term. The executive symbolizes the head of state has full control of the cabinet, but impeachment can remove them from office. In this system, the people mandate the president stand for democracy. In addition, the fixed term in office makes this system exceptional (Linz 54).

Process of Democratization

The fall of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, marked the start of the democratization process in Tunisia. Although the country has its problems, ranging from chasing of journalists including political activists, some acts of violence and noises of daily battles, Sharqieh strongly believes that the progress shows positivity. This is primarily because of the way Tunisia handled the assassination of a Salafi extremist Mohamed al-Brahmi. There was the dissolution of the government and formation of a new technocratic government. In addition, instead of using arms, there were peaceful protests by the opposition parties.

On the other hand, the situation was quite different in Egypt. The protests on the streets celebrating, "isqat al-nizam" "the fall of Mubarak's regime," led to mass destruction of property and deaths. This was because the military used force to contain the situation. Another attempt to stop the protests was the use of fear, but this failed and the death toll was too high. Therefore, the army forced Mubarak to step down (Shehata 1). In contrast, Tunisia's Jasmine revolution lead to partial political change, this was evident from the military. The military, which was supposed to sustain the authoritarian regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, did not oppose the fall of the autocrat (Sharqieh).

The military, instead, expressed its support for the country's democratization process by embracing the idea of public dominance. In Egypt, the military gave up because of fear of losing influence and more deaths would tarnish the military's legitimacy. However, their 25 January revolution did not result to desired outcomes because the military remained influential, and could decide the democratization process. The process primarily depends on the army. If it remains united and organized, or groups such as the Muslim brotherhood, comes in and disintegrates the military. If this happens, the democratization process would be impossible (Shehata 2).

Tunisia adopted inclusion, whereby the political elites showed commitment to the concept of inclusiveness (Bellin 3). The High Commission for the Protection of the Revolution made efforts to represent the Tunisian Society. They incorporated forty-two national figures, from various parties and seventeen civil society and national organizations. The commission further included women and youth. In addition, the newly formulated electoral commission committed itself to an inclusive process before the election. The commission paved way for various parties including Islamists, Secularists and Communists (Bellin 3).

The principle of inclusiveness, although it came at expenses such as efficiency and clarity, it meant that Tunisia's fair elections was a bit confusing, with many parties, and the writing of the constitution was slow. Therefore, the Tunisians portrayed commitment to the process of democratization by opting for fair and free elections. On the other hand, Egypt used the concept of revolution. This involved taking power after a successful revolution. Similarly, the way Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the Mubarak voted, the Ennahda Party won 41% seats in the legislature. Nevertheless, there is some progress in Egypt after they held an election, which saw Mohammed Morsi win the election. It was the first presidential election after the revolution, which saw Hosni Mubarak overthrown, during the Arab spring (Egyptian Presidential Election).

Institutional design after attempts of democratization

The transitional government in Tunisia has made progress, especially in the transitional justice law. Therefore, the design includes 12 members responsible for drafting the law. Two of them represent the Justice Ministry, whereas the remaining ten come from various civil groups. Their main task is to gauge the popular opinion by engaging with people in the country, and inquiring on the expectations of citizens from the government, in comparison to Ali's dictatorship (Bellin 3). The members also consulted with organizations, especially those that specialize in transitions. For instance, the Al-Kawakib Democracy Transition center and the Tunisia Network for Transitional Justice both had representations in the committee.

On institutional design, the assembly adopted the gharbala (sifting approach), as compared to the tatheer (purge) approach employed in Libya. The judicial reforms begun with removing judicial officers linked to corruption or misconduct using compelling evidence. The National Authority for the Prevention of Torture was responsible as oversight for the security services, in charge of observing and inspecting the prisons around the country (Sharqie). The oversight authority had the mandate to access jails and carry out interviews. In addition, the Constituent Assembly formed agencies to monitor and reform the media, especially in the media houses, which constantly was in praise of the former regime, and the historically corrupt regime.

Centrally, the Egyptians are adamant in designing the structures left after the Mubarak regime. This is the main reason there is a broadening gap in the political system. In addition, there are still no reforms made to the presidential system, left after overthrowing the Mubarak era. In order to achieve democracy, there is a need for constitutional redesign (Ackerman). If this had taken place, or the presidential system reformed, the current bloodshed would have not occurred. A parliamentary system is not a cure, but if there is appropriate design, it is possible for it to eliminate some of the challenges. Overall, Egypt's democratization process is achievable, but depends on its leaders. However, a re-design of the parliamentary democracy, would bring about a constitutional order that encourages democratization (Ackerman).

Other institutional elements in the case of Tunisia include a parliamentary dominance and a parliamentary electoral system. Both are because of the inclusive commission comprising of members from various political parties and civil groups. This is the commission formed by the transition government after the stepping down of Ben Ali. The commission developed some of the institutional rules for the coming election and change. The first institutional factor, absence of an early population election for the president, they operated under a parliamentary system. On the contrary, Egypt's early election, leading to the election of President Morsi, conferred a direct vote for him as president despite having won in the first round with only a 25% popular majority (Egyptian Presidential Election).

The parliamentary system in Tunisia, avoided the probability for single party power during the transitional period, which led to drafting and ratification of the new constitution. The argument in favor of the parliamentary election rules was subtle, and guaranteed wide elaboration but is as important. The Commission established all the contestable seats by list proportional representation in moderately sized districts, and conversely, the lists vote shares would translate into seat shares using the method called Hare Quota Remainders. In Tunisia, this suggested concentrating seat allowances owing to the size and including all parties, which had representatives in the elections.

The political culture necessary for democracy

Some cultural and religious factors favored the transition government. For instance, Tunisians do not favor violence and radicalism. In addition, some suggest that the reign of President Bourguiba, and his culture of centralizing and modernizing projects played a role in favoring transition. Tunisia lacks ethnic, tribal, or religious segregation, which has substantial division in other parts of the world. Another issue…

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