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The Nexus Between Kinship and Politics During Times of Democratic Crisis in Tunisia
Abstract by Ihsan Mejdi On Session V-9  (Tunisian Democracy in Crisis)

On Friday, November 3 at 1:30 pm

2023 Annual Meeting

Over the last decade, and despite the socio-economic challenges, Tunisia’s transition to democracy remained in progress. In July 2021, however, the north African country’s nascent democracy faced a serious political crisis following a series of drastic measures taken by the president Kais Saied. The measures consisted mainly of the reshaping of the political system and the drafting of a new constitution. Since 2021 polls have shown public support for Kais Saied and distrust in political parties and elites. Though distrust in political elites or consecutive governments since 2011 is not new, and it has been reflecting the sense of the public’s dissatisfaction with decision makers who failed to meet the economic demands of Tunisians, Saied capitalised on it to further consolidate his power and exclude his opponents. Most political parties opposed Saied’s measures considering them a coup which put an end to democratisation in Tunisia. The president’s supporters, however, believe that the decision is a needed corrective measure in line with the ethos of the 2011 revolution. Saied was perceived both as ‘revolutionary’ and inqilebi (coup leader). In this paper I draw on my ethnographic fieldwork conducted in southwest Tunisia during the December 2022 legislative elections. I specifically examine the discourses and practices of candidates during electoral campaigns to show how the ongoing changes at the state level in Tunisia (Saied’s newly introduced electoral law, for instance) reconfigure local politics and redefine it along the lines of arouchiya (kinship relations).
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