Rafik Hariri Center Deputy Director Danya Greenfield writes for Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog on unresolved questions following Tunisia’s recent parliamentary elections:
It has long been a truism of democratic transitions that it is the second election, not the first, that determines whether a new democratic regime has been consolidated. Tunisia’s parliamentary election of Oct. 26 and Sunday’s presidential election, offer just such an event and, even more impressive, the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box. It’s more complicated than that, however, because of unresolved questions about the real nature of Nidaa Tunis and its ability to form a viable government.
The Nidaa Tunis party won a comfortable parliamentary victory in October, taking 85 out of 217 seats, and the governing Ennahda party accepted the results. Nidaa’s presidential candidate, Beji Caid Essebsi, is favored in the Nov. 23 presidential election, although it is not clear whether he will be able to avoid a runoff. Regardless of the outcome of that election, Nidaa has three major challenges to overcome: first, maintaining the cohesion of the party after elections; second, forming a government that answers the demands of its base but does not become paralyzed; and third, moving aggressively to deliver economic and social benefits to an impatient and frustrated Tunisian public. Its ability to respond to these challenges will go a long way toward determining whether the elections lead to genuine democratic consolidation.