Tunisian Democratic Transition: What Role for Political Islamists in Reconstructing Tunisia?

Erdoğan A.

in: Trajectories of Change in Post-2011: Challenges and Prospects, Jochen Lobah,Hamza Tayebi, Editor, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Rabat, pp.28-44, 2017

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Other Book
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Hanns Seidel Foundation
  • City: Rabat
  • Page Numbers: pp.28-44
  • Editors: Jochen Lobah,Hamza Tayebi, Editor
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Contrary to the mainstream scholarship on persistent authoritarianism and ‘Arab exceptionalism’, the year 2011 witnessed a set of revolts that broke out in Tunisia and spread to other Arab countries in the region. These revolts raised many doubts and questions on the existing literature on this region. To some political scientists, the fundamental question arose as regards to whether the Arab revolts could be handled within a fourth wave of democratization or these revolts indicate a temporary breakup from the long-entrenched authoritarian regimes. Six years after these uprisings, Tunisia proved to be the only country that moved towards democratization among the countries swept by the Arab uprisings. In the post-authoritarian Tunisia, despite several actors’ engagement and a vibrant multiparty politics, much of the credit could be attributed to political Islamists who have played a critical role in the political transformation of the country. In the first election held after Ben Ali’s fall, Ennahda Party, borne out of an underground political Islamist movement that was for long suppressed under Ben Ali regime, gained an electoral victory. However, unlike the other Islamist movements in the region, Ennahda leadership’s decisions, priorities and preferences contributed to the success of the Tunisian transition, to a great extent. In that respect, this paper takes a closer look at the peculiarities of Ennahda movement, its historical evolution and at critical moments how the party leadership’s farsighted vision contributed to democratic transition in Tunisia.