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(en) France, Alternating Current* #215 - Elections in Tunisia - Revenge of the regions and marginalized populations? [machine translation]

Date Sat, 31 Dec 2011 08:39:55 +0200

Nine months after 14 January 2011 which saw the dictator Ben Ali to flee the country to take refuge in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia has experienced the first democratic elections ever held in any other Arab country. Surla Technically, this achievement is in itself a great success and a major step towards the final exit of totalitarian political regimes that have dominated the country since independence in 1956. ---- But the real surprise, for much of the population and especially for the majority of foreign observers, was the undoubted success of the Islamists which only very few people had considered the scale: almost 40% of the seats in the assembly Constituent and about 37% of the votes cast, while the most "pessimistic" did not give them more than 30%, an estimate already considerable. How to explain this political success?

This is the question that this paper attempts to answer by looking more closely at the results and policy debates during the election campaign and after the vote. This contribution is based on my previous article (AC 210) on the revolution in Tunisia (1). In this paper, I tried to show that the Tunisian revolution, which began in early 2008, was originally a marginal revolution against dictatorship and oppression, but also against unemployment, poverty and lack of dignity. Without a revolution in the regions of the margin against those of political and economic power (capital and the Sahel), the revolution was the result of the development gap between the rich and those on the coast of central and south Forgotten development policies. The elections of October 23 Were the "hand" of the marginalized? Despite some indications, the answer is not easy and the assertion would be risky as the dividing lines intersect without obvious logic.

During the campaign, two are ignored Tunisia

During the many weeks of election campaign that preceded the vote, a dividing line was clearly drawn between two sets a broad socio-geographical gap seemed to separate them. On the one hand, there was the "Lay" representing the left and its various components, the Liberals and more generally the upper end of the middle class and the bourgeoisie. Geographically, this first group was first in rich regions, developed and urbanized North Coast in particular in the rich neighborhoods of the capital and other major cities first. Broadly speaking, controlling much of the media and key sectors of the economy, this first group, jealous of his interests and benefits, felt threatened by the possible rise to power of Islamists. Mobilized behind the secular parties, he gave a speech about the modernist slogan of protection of individual freedoms and in particular women's rights that are the exception of Tunisia on the map Arabic.

This first group has tried all means to voters to play the card of fear by demonizing the Islamists. For them, they can seize power sounded like a return to dictatorship where human rights would be violated even before January 14, 2011. Some have gone so far to ensure that even Ben Ali and Bourguiba before him had "protected" and favored individual liberties (not political) and the rights of women. In that speech, Bourguiba, who had granted rights to women and Tunisian status sometimes incompatible with Islamic law, was heavily used and associated with this approach. On Facebook, some have not hesitated to describe as "traitors" voters preparing to vote for candidates of Ennahda.
The second group represents one of the regions and marginalized populations, social drivers of the revolution: the people central, south and west, those in poor neighborhoods of big cities, unemployed youth, graduates or not, the bottom of the middle class, like civil servants and other employees in the service sector, mainly Arabic-speaking conservative and attached to traditional values ââand religious people no less conservative villages and isolated rural areas.
It is this group that has mostly voted for the lists of Ennahda as the map clearly shows the votes obtained by the Islamist party of Ghannouchi. Face of the campaign speeches and the first group, they responded by giving confidence, although conditional and relative to the Islamists. Their goal: to make these candidates their spokespersons in national for their expectations and demands are well understood by all. It's behind this vote a mixture of reasons, but it is also indisputable that expresses more social expectations, justice and dignity that membership ideological pure Ennahda. While one may question the choice of this party but it seems that the vote was rather expressed a reaction against the left and liberals: a protest vote and a vote of resistance. The rest are the same slogans chanted during the revolution.
Voting for Ennahdha due to the place it has occupied in the political arena of the country by using a speech "victim" moralizing, comforting and playing on the promises. In addition to the negative image which suffers the first group whose members are perceived as derogatory, remote, enclosed in their class interests, detached from the people, pushy, acquired from France and "bad" Muslims or even atheists, Ennahda received many prejudices "positive" that for his constituents, apart from other political groups.

Moreover, these elections have shown that the dividing line was extended to Tunisians abroad as their fellow citizens from within and in the same proportion, voted for Ennahda. This vote was a second surprise of these elections. Tunisians abroad, relatively affluent, supposedly the world more open and more aware of social issues, however, have overwhelmingly given their voices to the Islamists. The explanation probably requires more work of investigation and analysis, but it seems they have finally voted in the same direction as the other members of their families back in their villages and regions of origin with a probable identity - cation to their social environments. There may also be the effect of the release, the anti-Islam and the racism they face in their host countries. Again, marginality seems to have favored a vote in favor of a political party which refers to an Arab-Islamic identity. But it is still the result of direct political persecution of Islamists including a large number of activists and senior officials had managed to flee, often forced, sometimes voluntary. Abroad, they are heavily invested in work to mobilize the diaspora Tunisians. They managed to form dense networks, efficient and organized, which were very active during the election campaign, the results demonstrated.
Ennahdha, whose members were especially persecuted by the dictatorship that has imprisoned, and forced him to exile and deprived a large number of all sources of income gaps, under various pretexts, their work when they held a job or when they were looking for. This relentless policeman who touched thousands of families was ultimately very profitable for the Islamist party turned into a victim by Ben Ali. However, victimization, which is obviously a very effective weapon, can not stand on its own. So there are other reasons to vote Islamist:

The political vacuum and even "cultural" carefully organized and continued during the years of dictatorship in order to avoid any possible competition and development of opposition forces that could threaten the regime;
The conservatism of a large part of rural and marginalized areas of southern, central and west;
The low access of women to the knowledge of the popular after-school (film, theater, books, travel ...)
Unemployment is striking a very large part of the youth and has virtually no chance of finding a job because of the geographical remoteness of the areas of jobs and opportunities for access to informal resources. Such as those available to young people in cities, generally better educated, French and benefiting from a significant social capital. When you are a graduate looking for a job, it is better to get a family living in Sidi Bou Said as a family based in Sidi-Bouzid.
Marginalization in recent decades thousands of civil servants, teachers, high school teachers, nurses and engineers ... working in marginalized areas. Abandoned by the state according to them, they were gradually shut in tradition, local solidarity, family and the Arab-Islamic identity;
Flawless organization compared to many of the opponents and divided;
Financial resources (provided by some Gulf countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia) that allowed virtually unlimited party distribute money and food aid to needy families;
Thus, we can say that if the success of the Islamists is indisputable, they first have to their opponents that led campaign against the party Ennahda in the name of modernity, which rules out a large part of the population whose access to power, wealth, knowledge and information is severely limited. However, if the Liberals and the left were clearly sanctioned, Islamists winners have not been provided a blank check and could be in a position less comfortable after the test of the exercise of power and writing , collective strength of the new constitution. Many among his constituents yesterday could easily end up in the camp of the opponents if they are disappointed by broken promises, for a possible return too radical to conservative dogma and a possible application too strict normative rules related to Sharia.
However, it should first be noted that these are the first free elections that Tunisians have ever experienced. The results are therefore to look at and analyze their political exceptional and consider first for what they are, namely those of the first democratic experience. It would be too quick to take them as a true political and ideological positioning in society. I am betting that look like nothing less than the elections of October 23 as planned within a year, once the new constitution written.
I can not say who are the happiest of the election results and the success of Islamists . But I know at least one: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who ruled as a dictator of Tunisia and is now a refugee in Saudi Arabia.


(1) For more details can be found: 2011, Ayeb, H, "Social and Political Geography of the Tunisian revolution: The revolution alfa grass" In Review of African Political Economy. London.
* Monthly of Anarchist-Communist Libertar OCL
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