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Couscous & Political Dialogue

Demo Finland’s partner organization in Tunisia, CEMI, launched earlier this year a new initiative focusing on political dialogue. Politics has a competitive element but it needs to be supported by a strong commitment to co-operation. This is the reason why politicians have the chance to come together and discuss hot topics in a casual environment under the auspices of the Tunisian School of Politics.

The first ”couscous politique” was organized in May. Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Wim Kok, representing the Club de Madrid, an organization for former head of states, was present at the event. He emphasized the need for patience and constructive mindset in politics: nothing can be done overnight and everyone needs to compromise in politics.

In young democracies, the co-operative element is often overruled by the competitive one and a ”winner takes it all” mentality is present. According to Demo Finland and its Dutch partner organization Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy’s experience, informal debate across partylines is one of the most effective ways to enhance the culture of political co-operation when reaching for pluralistic and functional multiparty democracy.

The second discussion – with focus on political alliances – was organized in July with the presence of the Bulgarian Ambassador to Tunisia. The topics of the discussions are chosen by the participants and CEMI with its partners act only as organizers.

After a promising start, the debates will be continued and will hopefully become an important forum for political debate in Tunisia, a country on its way to stable democracy. Couscous is the national dish of the country and offers a great metaphor for the common goal: to create a system deeply rooted in Tunisian culture and people that everyone will have the chance to enjoy with various ingredients mixed in.

Image: CEMI

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