Passers-by in the bazaar of Tunis

Political situation Power struggles are endangering democratisation process

The revolution in 2011 offered Tunisia the opportunity to become a democratic country governed by the rule of law. However, Tunisia's peaceful transition is under threat from an unstable party system; power struggles between president, government and parliament; deficits in building state institutions; a tense security situation and an ongoing economic crisis.

The frequent government reshuffles in recent years have led to important decisions being postponed. Essential economic policy and social reforms are being implemented only slowly.

In July 2021, the political situation reached a critical point. Following nationwide protests about government policies and its management of the COVID-19 crisis, State President Kais Saied took over the running of the government and the office of Attorney-General by decree. He suspended parliament – initially for a period of 30 days –, lifted parliamentarians' immunity and dismissed the prime minister. The country has since been in a state of upheaval. It is currently impossible to predict what the future holds for Tunisia's process of democratisation.

High levels of public debt

One particular challenge is the country's tight budget situation. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia's public debt had reached worrying levels. The additional expenditure made necessary by the COVID-19 crisis, a drop in tax revenues and poor management of spending have sent public debt soaring to 90 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. A very significant expenditure item are public service salaries. They account for about 40 per cent of the national budget.

A state of emergency

In 2015 Tunisia suffered several terrorist attacks. Since then, the country has been in a state of emergency. Because Tunisia's healthcare system was on the point of collapse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, State President Saied in July 2021 extended the state of emergency by a further six months, until January 2022.