In July 2021, Tunisia’s populist president Kais Saied suspended the popularly elected legislature, upending a decade-long democratic transition. Despite the international celebration Tunisia’s 2011 transition had garnered, Saied’s executive takeover initially precipitated among Tunisians more relief than opposition. This article explores the factors that left Tunisia’s democracy so vulnerable. I argue that after decades of single-party rule, political elites failed to build political parties capable of parlaying political liberalization into the good governance and economic prosperity that many had expected to come from democratization. These failures not only contributed to the appeal of Saied’s antiparty populism, but also left the country’s democracy bereft of guardrails to stop him.
Coup in Tunisia: Transition Arrested
Issue Date January 2022
Page Numbers 12–26