TUNISIAN SCHOOL OF POLITICS: TRAINING YOUNG POLITICIANS AND STRENGTHENING MULTIPARTY DIALOGUE
Background: Steps towards a stable democracy
After the Jasmine revolution of 2011 Tunisia has taken steps towards democracy, but the political situation remains partly unstable. The country is new to multiparty democracy and although the parties and politicians have strengthened their knowledge on democratic principles and multiparty cooperation, implementation of democratic reforms has not been easy, partly due to the scattered political party field. Slow reforms, corruption, youth unemployment, security issues and regional inequalities have resulted in frustrations among the citizens. This was manifested both in the 2019 parliamentary elections that resulted in major changes in the composition of the Parliament and in the presidential elections where independent candidate Kais Saied was elected. Coalition government was formed only after second attempt in February 2020, four months after the parliamentary elections.
After the revolution several new parties have emerged in Tunisia. Many of the new parties need support in their in organisational structure and party programmes. There is also need for training for politicians, so they can support strategic planning and drafting of policies within their parties. Cooperation between the ruling parties and the opposition has been possible, but dialogue is still fragile and susceptible to tensions in the political atmosphere. Women’s participation in politics is higher in Tunisia than in other Arab countries. The amount of women in the Parliament decreased from over 31 % to around 25 % in the 2019 elections, but on the local level 47 % of representatives are women.
Our work in Tunisia:
In 2012 Demo Finland, a Tunisian think tank Centre des Etudes Méditerranéennes et Internationales (CEMI) and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) set up the Tunisian School of Politics (TSoP), which aims at strengthening the multiparty system through improved co-operation across party lines.
TSoP gathers together young people from the parliamentary parties and offers them knowledge as well as practical tools for working in politics. Taking part in the school offers the young politicians a whole new skill set of working in politics, understanding the intricacies of a multiparty system, and the skills to work together across party lines. Gender equality is a cross-cutting objective of the programme and therefore gender quotas are in place for the trainings, and the themes are approached from gender perspectives.
TsoP alumni now number over 400 and their capacities and skills in multiparty co-operation are further strengthened through alumni trainings. Each year, the TSoP organises several multiparty discussions, meetings with government Ministers, and public discussions with parties, civil society and other actors, emphasizing peaceful dialogue and constructive political conversation.
TSoP has trainings also for parliamentarians, and the latest component added in the programme is trainings for parliamentary assistants. This supports the elected MPs’ ability to make knowledge-based decisions.
In addition to strengthening the capacity of political actors, the programme also aims at enhancing the programmatic work and strategic planning of the political parties. This enables citizens to understand how parties position themselves in relation to different sectors and what kind of policies they promote. The programme supports the parties’ strategy preparation work and the implementation of already completed party strategies. It also supports politicians in drafting policy papers. The Nouabook website is an innovation of TsoP that allows voters to follow up with politicians and discuss political issues.
In 2016 TsoP set up a high-level multiparty dialogue forum to enhance political dialogue. The forum brings together all parliamentary parties with more than three seats in the parliament and holds an important place in facilitating multiparty dialogue, as it is the only one of its kind in the country. Ahead the 2019 elections, the forum published a joint statement on the ethicalness and cooperation regarding election campaigning, which was a significant indication of the multiparty forum’s ability to cooperate.
The Tunisian School of Politics has quickly stabilized its place on the Tunisian political field. Every other year, young politicians who have graduated from TSoP with highest grades participate in a study visit to Finland and get acquainted with the Finnish party field and the traditions of multiparty co-operation via Demo Finland.
The Tunisian School of Politics is supported by the Ministries for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Netherlands via Demo Finland and NIMD.
Results of our work:
- Since 2012, TsoP has trained over 400 young politicians on the basis and practices of multiparty democracy. There are hundreds of participants in the different activities of TSoP every year.
- 20 young members of the 2011 Constitutional Assembly participated in the courses of the Tunisian School of Politics in 2013–2014.
- In 2019 elections, 54 politicians that have participated in the TSoP activities were elected in the Parliament, 14 out of them are women. In the 2018 local elections, 61 TSoP alumni (29 men and 32 women) ran as candidates, out of which 11 women were elected.
- The alumni have praised the Tunisian School of Politics especially for enabling cross-party relations and co-operation. TsoP has also increased their co-operation with civil society actors: 70 % of the alumni co-operate with the civil society monthly.
- Many of the TsoP alumni have risen to high positions in their parties and they have trained their party colleagues in turn.
- 13 parties have drafted party strategies with the support of TSoP, and their implementation is being monitored.
- The parliamentary academy set up in 2018 trained 53 MP’s in its first year, and trainings for parliamentary assistants began in 2019.
- The Tunisian School of Politics and the high-level dialogue forum have created respected and important spaces for politicians to meet across party lines, while increasing trust and co-operation and producing policy initiatives. In 2019, 13 parties signed a joint statement on ethical election campaigning.