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Report: Tunisian Confidence in Democracy Wanes

Support for democracy in Tunisia has decreased from 63 percent in 2012 to 48 percent, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

            Support for democracy in Tunisia has decreased from 63 percent in 2012 to 48 percent, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The current economic situation, declining popularity of political parties, and distrust in political leaders are among the reasons for this decline. The following are excerpts from the survey report.

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Ratings for Islamist Ennahda Party Have Declined Since Revolution

      With parliamentary elections approaching later this month, Tunisian support for democracy has declined steeply since the early days of the Arab Spring. Just 48% of Tunisians now say democracy is preferable to other kinds of government, down from 63% in a 2012 poll conducted only months after a popular uprising removed longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from office. 

      Still, despite waning confidence in democracy’s ability to produce results, Tunisians continue to want key features of a democratic system, such as a fair judiciary, competitive elections, the right to protest and equal rights for men and women.

Islam in Tunisian Democracy

      The majority of Tunisians believe that Islam should play at least some role in their government. More than half (53%) say that laws should follow the values and principles of Islam, but not strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. Three-in-ten believe that laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran, while 15% believe laws in Tunisia should not be influenced at all by the Quran, which is relatively unchanged over the last year.

Most Tunisians are Dissatisfied, but Optimistic

            A broad majority of Tunisians (81%) express dissatisfaction with the way things are going in their country. Fewer than two-in-ten (17%) say they are satisfied with the country’s direction. Just 13% of 18-29 year olds are satisfied, while slightly more of those 50 and over (24%) express satisfaction with national conditions.

            However, people are slightly more optimistic when it comes to the country’s economic future. A majority (56%) now believes that the economic situation will improve over the next 12 months, up six percentage points from last year, while 18% think the economy will worsen and 21% say it will remain the same over the next year. Despite the increase since last year, economic optimism has not yet returned to initial post-revolution levels when 75% of Tunisians expected economic improvement.

Worse Off Than under Ben Ali

            Roughly half of Tunisians (51%) say that the recent years of revolutionary turmoil have left the country worse off than it was under Tunisia’s long-time ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Only 35% say Tunisia is better off, a view virtually unchanged from 2013.

Leading Political Organizations Fare Poorly

            Tunisians are markedly unhappy with the political organizations at the center of the country’s struggle toward democracy over the last three years. Of all the organizations included in the survey, the one that fares the best is the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), a powerful group credited with brokering a deal to help jumpstart the stagnated post-revolutionary transition last fall. More than half (53%) express a favorable opinion of the long-standing organization, while 37% rate it negatively.

Mixed Reviews of National Institutions

            Military and Police PraisedDespite the substantial portion of Tunisians that believe they are worse off since the Jasmine Revolution, opinions of Tunisian institutions are relatively mixed. Fully 95% give the military positive ratings. The police also receive high ratings, with 82% support in 2014, up from 71% last year. Six-in-ten or more also believe financial institutions (62%), the media (62%) and corporations (60%) have a good influence on the way things are going in Tunisia. Roughly half (52%) of Tunisians give the national government high marks, while just 41% rate the government negatively.

Government Working for Women?

            Slightly Greater Satisfaction on Women’s RightsPeople are split over whether their current government is doing enough to ensure that women have the same rights as men. Roughly a third (31%) believes the government is doing the right amount, up eight points in the last year. Similarly, fewer people say the government is not doing enough (37%) than last year when 51% said this. Around two-in-ten (18%) said the government is doing too much for women’s rights, the same as last year. Young people are more likely to be dissatisfied with the government’s efforts to protect the rights of women than their elder counterparts – 46% of those 18 to 29 believe the government is doing too little, while just 27% of those 50 and over say the same. However, there is no significant gender divide on this question.

Click here to read the full report.

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