Consolidating pluralism under the terrorist threat: the Tunisian case and the Algerian experience

At the end of 2016, I published a research/policy article on European View, analysing the current Tunisian troubled, but still successful, path to consolidate democracy to the Algerian experience of the ’80s and ’90s. Below you can find the conclusions, but if you want to download the full article in PDF, click here. Ça va sans dire, I would be very happy to receive readers’ comments on this work (you can use the email address provided in the article).

The Algerian experience during the 1990s shows that the emergence of radical Islamist terrorism can become a systemic threat which has the potential to put the structure of the state at risk and to inflict political, social and psychological wounds that are particularly complicated, if not impossible, to heal.

Although the countries of the Maghreb are all very different, despite being part of the same geographical area, it is still possible to draw certain comparisons and to isolate factors and dynamics that represent either a model of inspiration or mistakes to avoid. Tunisia was the country that started this wave of change, and so far it is the only one which has moved forward, despite a number of problems. The problems Algeria experienced after the opening up of its authoritarian and single-party system—that is, the subsequent emergence of radical Islamist movements and the eruption of terrorism—help us understand the challenges that, if not met, can undermine and derail the path towards the consolidation of pluralism, and thus democracy, in Tunisia.

The disruption of the democratic and pluralist process in Algeria opened up the chasm of civil war. While Tunisia does not seem to be taking the same path, the risks of a reverse wave are still significant. The country must avoid making the same mistakes that halted the democratic process in Algeria and radicalised some of its domestic constituencies.

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