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The Historical Origins of Undemocratic Norms: Re-exploring Civil-Military Relations in Tunisia
Starting from the puzzling contribution of the military to the 2021 autogolpe led by Presiden Kais Saied, the article explores the dynamics of civil-military relations in Tunisia and the role of normative constraints in the preservation of democratic norms. The inherited securitarian practices from colonialism have shaped both formal and informal institutions governing civil-military relations in post-colonial Tunisia. The absence of effective mechanisms to yield negative returns to undemocratic behavior among military officers has resulted in positive returns and disregard for democratic norms. Civilians can also contribute to transgressions of democratic norms, creating demand for coup-like events or disrupting existing norms and boundaries. The accumulation of unsanctioned transgressions weakens the normative order, leading to confusion between good and bad behavior. After the fall of the Ben Ali regime, the military became subject to direct scrutiny and influence from civilian actors, but civilians still lack visibility on military issues and spending. The informal dynamics between civilian leadership and military officers have led to the fusion of the military and political spheres into one military-political complex. The Tunisian military has historically been subordinate to civilian political leadership, but this relationship changed after the 2011 revolution, leading to inconsistent roles for civilians and military officers, unclear norms, and loose boundaries. This allowed the military to engage in a coup targeting the parliament and constitutional order, as the absence of legislative democratic control prevented the parliament from preventing the coup. The blurriness and implicitness of the political and societal agreement on military boundaries allowed the military to step into politics, preserving the norms constructed during the state's formational period. The paper argues that the weakness of normative constraints on military behavior is a factor contributing to the demise of democracy, using a mixed-method approach, including archival documents, social media data, and interviews. The article provides insights into the history of civil-military relations in Tunisia and the factors that contribute to the demise of democracy. It sheds light on the importance of clear normative constraints on military behavior to maintain democratic norms, contributing to the literature on norms and democracy survival.
Political Science
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