Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 2 November 2011

Tunisia: Elections mask the growing anger from below

Following the revolutionary events at the start of 2011 in Tunisia, in which the country's youth, unemployed and workers overthrew the 24-year long dictatorship of president Ben Ali, elections have recently taken place for a constituent assembly. The assembly is supposed to rewrite the constitution, choose a new interim government, and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The elections saw the victory of the Islamist party Ennahda, which opens a new, complex situation, against the background of a continuing crisis in the economy, and a deep thirst for social change among the masses. The following edited report is from a CWI reporter. The full report can be read on

After decades of dictatorship, and the farcical polls that have characterised all the past elections under Ben Ali's rule, these elections were for many Tunisians the first time in their life to vote in the framework of 'real elections'. This gives an important explanation for the large electoral turnout.

It is clear that the Islamist party Ennahda comes through by far as the first party, leading in almost every region, winning around 90 seats in the 217-seat constituent assembly, with 40% of the vote.

At first sight, this may appear surprising as, at the start of the year, this party was hardly visible in the mass protests, and its role in the revolution has been non-existent.

However, the party has benefited from the lack of a challenging alternative on the left, giving the opportunity for Ennahda to fill the political vacuum.

Relying on a network of charitable organisations active in the poorest neighbourhoods and towns, and on huge financial means allegedly pouring in from the Gulf monarchies, Ennahda has campaigned all over the country exploiting people's frustrations by playing on their religious sentiments and on a populist social rhetoric.

"I voted Ennahda because the other parties want 10% of the population to live in luxury while the rest of the population remain in poverty," explained an elderly man interviewed in a French-speaking newspaper.

Fears of a 'hidden' agenda by Ennahda have been reinforced by the fact that some groups of Salafists have flexed their muscles in the recent months, attacking a cinema and a TV station over material they considered blasphemous, demonstrating to demand an "Islamic revolution", and physically attacking left activists and women.

However, Ennahda will lack an absolute majority in the new assembly and will find it difficult to impose a hardline agenda, especially in a country that has just experienced a revolution.


There was an unexpected breakthrough by the list El Aridha (People's Petition Party). It is led by a millionaire, Hechmi Haamdi - a former Islamist, who then became an open ally of the former Ben Ali regime before turning against him - who owns a TV station, broadcasting by satellite from London.

With a populist programme, he also exploited the fact that he came from Sidi Bouzid, playing on regionalist resentment against the relatively higher living standards of northern coast cities. All this without even putting a foot inside Tunisia during the whole electoral campaign.

However, because of the number of obvious irregularities of his campaign, Haamdi's lists have been cancelled in six regions, which has pushed him to cancel all the other lists in the aftermath, denouncing the 'rotten' character of the assembly.

The cancellation of seats led to protests and riots in Sidi Bouzid on 27 October, involving the burning of the regional Ennahda's headquarters. It was in Sidi Bouzid that fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate, set himself on fire on 17 December last year to protest against abuses under Ben Ali's 23-year-old regime.

"The ruling class will now try to use the 'success story' of these elections in an attempt to close the revolutionary chapter, to bring back politics from the streets to the institutions, from the creative energy of the masses towards a caste of professional politicians, the majority of them having played no role in the revolution whatsoever. But the 'people of the assembly' are not 'the people of the revolution'," comments Dali, a Tunisian activist.

The impression of relative stability and the hopes of a smooth, orderly democratic transition could be short-lived. Sporadic protests and strikes have continued on a regular basis and a national postal workers' strike to demand wage increases has started.

Tunisia faces a deep crisis, and remains marked by profound social contradictions. Indeed, the daily lives of the Tunisian masses have hardly changed. If anything, they have got worse.

The revolution is far from finished. New outbreaks of struggle are inevitable, as a restoration and stabilisation of the existing economic system can only be done by blocking the masses' aspirations for a new life, that have been awakened by their revolution.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 2 November 2011:

Building anti-cuts action

Bosses prosper, workers suffer...

30 November and beyond

Workers can show their power in 30 November strike

Socialist Party workplace news

An interview with Mick Dooley

'Virgin' on the outrageous

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party

Why you should join the Socialist Party

Read the Socialist - the paper that fights all the cuts

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Bradford joins the 'Occupy' movement

Jarrow marchers in solidarity action at Northampton university

Liverpool council 'does its best' for the bankers

Lansley closes another hospital A&E department

Socialist Party news and analysis

As the Jarrow March for Jobs arrives in London... Youth demand their future!

No return to hire and fire - Tories consider abolishing more workers' rights

Fast News

International socialist news and analysis

Tunisia: Elections mask the growing anger from below

Ireland: Spectacular election result for socialists

Tony Blair advises Kazakhstan's dictatorial regime

Socialist Party reviews

Battle for Bexley Square

The World's Biggest Bomb

1985 school strike exhibit shows how young people can organise to fight back


Home   |   The Socialist 2 November 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleTunisia: explosion of protests against government austerity

triangleAttacks ratchet-up Syrian conflict and fuel tensions between powers

triangleSyria: Is an end to the war in sight?

triangleSocialist Party national congress 2016

triangleNew wave of protests in Tunisia


triangleFrance in revolt

triangleManchester Socialist Party: Reform or revolution?

triangle1918: revolution ends World War One

triangleCardiff Socialist Party: Tories Out - General Election Now!


triangleWorkers at the forefront of the new wave of protests in Iran

trianglePolitical turmoil in Sri Lanka

triangleOver one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education


triangleCondemnation of racist destruction of Muswell Hill Islamic centre in London

triangleLondon demo: Stop the BNP! - updated





France in revolt



Workers defy brutal Iran regime



Midwives go on strike in New Zealand



France: mass demonstrations force president to back down



Workers at the forefront of the new wave of protests in Iran



San Francisco Bay Area's toxic smoke crisis and capitalism's mismanagement



Eyewitness: French protesters seize streets against President Macron



How can Trump be defeated?


Sri Lanka

Political turmoil in Sri Lanka


Spanish state

Over one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education



US midterms: Republicans weakened - but workers' fightback needed to end Trumpism


Sexual harassment

Worldwide walkout at Google against sexual harassment



CWI news in brief



Pittsburgh Synagogue shootings: Unite to fight anti-Semitism and far right



Bolsonaro - a threat to Brazil's workers and all oppressed people

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018