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Tunisian young politicians learned about Finnish municipal democracy

Group of Tunisian School of Politics (TSoP) students visited Finland during the municipal elections campaigning in October. The students got a chance to observe the campaigning just before the upcoming municipal elections.

The first free election in Tunisia after the Jasmin Revolution was held last year and at the moment the country is in middle of creating the constitution and democratic institutions. Visits to Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and Ministry of Justice raised many questions for example about the practicalities of voting and the role of parliamentarians in municipal politics.

During the visit many parties and their youth organisations demonstrated their municipal election campaigning and enlightened the activities of their organisations. TSoP students observed the campaigning in the streets and visited an election debate held in English.

Tunisians found confusing how little the upcoming election could be seen on the streets of Helsinki. They wondered did the politics in Finland mostly happen in the internet. The popular election machines were seen as a factor reducing direct contact between politicians and voters.

2012 10 30vierailu

The visitors met MP and former runner up in the 2012 presidential elections, Pekka Haavisto at a debate.

Defining common policy lines by government platforms

Essential part of Finnish political culture is coalition politics and the functioning of large coalition governments was interesting for our guests. Especially specific government platforms signed by all the parties in the government were seen as an interesting example for Tunisia. After the revolution new parties mushroomed and formed coalitions without clear common goals which has proved to be problematic in practice.

The director of the Tunisian School of Politics, Ahmed Driss thinks that one of the biggest challenges for Tunisia at the moment is the difficulty to collaborate between different parties. This is a factor that the School of Politics tries to influence by getting representatives from different parties to work together instead of confrontation.

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Visit to the Association of the Finnish Local and Regional Authorities raised questions about local governance and the responsibilities of the municipalities.

From equality to complementarity?

The winner of the last year’s elections was the Islamist Ennahda party. The party’s aims and influences to the new constitution have caused some concerns. The Tunisian politicians said that they trust the constitution process, but at the same time they think that it’s important to constantly observe the process and ask questions about the contents of the constitution to the Constituent Assembly.

In September the draft of the constitution referred to women as complementary instead of equal. This caused a storm of protests and complementarity was abandoned. Tunisia has been known as the most equal of the Arab countries what comes to gender equality and there has been concerns that the revolution could be a turn to the worse. The women of the TSoP thought that the position of women is good in Tunisia, and reminded that women of Tunisia were the first ones to get the right for abortion in the Muslim countries.

Tunisian School of Politics is a joint project between Demo Finland, CEMI (Centre des Études Méditerranées), NIMD (Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy) and Bulgarian School of Politics, which aims to increase the abilities of young members of different political parties to understand politics and multiparty system in addition to working together with members of different parties. Program offers opportunities to mutual learning and experience sharing for Tunisian and European politicians.

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