Independence Full independence as a monarchy, with Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000) as prime minister, 20 March 1956.
Republic of Tunisia
Republic of Tunisia Monarchy abolished, Tunisia became a republic, with Habib Bourguiba chosen by a constituent assembly as president, 1957.
Bourguiba administration Pro-Western leader who was a modernizer, a pioneer for women’s rights and an advocate of Arab moderation towards Israel, president 1957-87.
- Supreme Combatant Name given to Bourguiba.
- Etape per etape (lit., = step by step) Gradualism, characteristic of President Habib Bourguiba’s pragmatic political philosophy.
- Bourguibism Paris press’s description of Bourguiba’ skill in outmaneuvering French officials and Islamic conservatives.
- Code of personal status Decree that ran counter to traditional Muslim jurisprudence and custom in enhancing women’s rights in which polygamy was outlawed, marriage was redefined as a voluntary contract that conferred rights upon the wife as well as the husband. Minimum age for marriage was established and the consent of the bride was made mandatory. These stipulations in effect outlawed the traditional practice of selling young girls and underscored the modern concept of marriage as a bond between individuals rather than an alliance between families.
- President for life Bourguiba elected president for life, 1975.
Bizerte conflict Outbreak of fighting between Tunisia and France over French military base at Bizerte, the French abandoned the base, 1961.
Libya/Tunisia merger Projected but never carried out, 1974.
Antigovernment rioting Riots in Tunis and other cities after inflation increased igniting animosity between Bourguiba’s party and the trade unions, January 1978.
Gafsa attack Libyan instigated guerrilla attack in Gafsa, a Tunisian mining city, left 41 people dead, January 1980.
Parliamentary election 1981 First multi-party parliamentary elections since independence. President Bourguiba’s party wins landslide victory, 1981.
Friendship Treaty Alliance between Tunisia and Algeria, 1983.
Ennahdha Tunisian fundamentalist movement banned by President Ben Ali.
Bread riots Riots in Tunis 1984.
Israeli raid Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters in Tunis is raided by Israelis, 60 people are killed, 1985, in revenge for a PLO attack on a yacht in the Cypriot port of Larnaca, in which three Israeli tourists were killed.
IMF rescue Government ran short of foreign exchange, IMF came to rescue, 1986.
Prime minister removed Bourguiba removed Prime Minister Rashed Sfar and appointed Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (1936-), 2 October 1987.
- Ben Ali Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has been in power since 1987, within a decade he silenced every voice of the opposition, whether left-wing or Islamist. The private, as well as the public, press have become mouthpieces for the state. Ben Ali’s critics say that he aims to resurrect the president-for-life system.
- Ben Ali terror system Ben Ali has the largest secret service in the Arab world and whose policemen have perfected the best method of gleaning information from suspected “terrorists:” to hold them down and stuff bleach-soaked rags into their mouths until they have almost drown.
Palace revolution Bloodless coup in which Prime Minister Ben Ali, backed by the army, had Bourguiba declared incompetent and seized power, 7 November 1987.
Constitutional change Move towards democracy announced, 1988.
Presidential election 1989 First free elections in Tunisia’s history, won uncontested by Ben Ali reelected without opposition; gaining nearly 99.9% of the vote, 10 April 1989.
Islamists suppressed Strong action towards the Islamists, thousands get arrested, some killed, and arrests continue thereafter, 1991- 92.
Presidential election 1994 Ben Ali who is uncontested is re-elected gaining nearly 99.9% of the vote, 1994.
Presidential election 1999 First multi-party presidential elections, Ben Ali (RCD) is re-elected for a third term, winning 92% of the vote; seats by party - RCD 148, MDS 13, UDU 7, PUP 7, Al-Tajdid 5, PSL 2, 24 October 1999.
Note Reforms enabled opposition parties to win up to 20% of seats, increasing the number of seats they hold from 19 in the 1994 election to 34 in 1999.
Political Power Structure
Chief of state President elected by popular vote for a five-year term.
Head of government Prime Minister appointed by the president.
Council of Ministers Cabinet appointed by the president
Cour de Cassation (= Court of Cassation) Judicial branch.
Majlis al-Nuwaab (Arabic) (Chamber of Deputies) Unicameral chamber with 182 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms.
Al-Tajdid Movement Led by Adel Chaouch.
Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique
Democratic Rally Party (RCD) Official ruling party of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Liberal Social Party (PSL) Led by Mounir Beji.
Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS) Led by Khamis Chammari.
Popular Unity Party (PUP) Led by Mohamed Belhaj Amor.
Unionist Democratic Union (UDU) Led by Abderrahmane Tlili.
Al Nahda (= Renaissance) Islamic fundamentalist party outlawed.
Tunisia economy Diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth slowed to a 15-year low of 1.9% in 2002 because of agricultural drought and lackluster tourism. Better rains in 2003 and 2004, however, helped push GDP growth above 5% for these years. Tourism also recovered after the end of combat operations in Iraq. Tunisia is gradually removing barriers to trade with the European Union.