TUNISIAN SCHOOL OF POLITICS: TRAINING YOUNG POLITICIANS AND STRENGTHENING MULTIPARTY DIALOGUE
Background: Small steps towards a stable democracy
After the Jasmine revolution of 2011 Tunisia has taken steps towards democracy, but the political situation remains unstable. The country is new to multiparty democracy and the parties and politicians have been lacking in knowledge on democratic principles and multiparty cooperation. Slow reforms, corruption, youth unemployment, security issues and regional inequalities have resulted in growing frustrations among the citizens and the rise of political extremism. After the revolution the country has seen nine different governments that have all tried to improve the economic situation and carry out reforms but failed.
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 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 countries in the region, and remarkable even on the international scale: over 31 % of the parliamentarians are female, and on the local level around 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 the 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 multi-party system, and the skills to work together across party lines. TSoP also facilitates the so-called ”couscous politique”- discussions with decision makers, civil society organisations and academia to further promote a peaceful and constructive political discussion. The Tunisian School of Politics has quickly stabilized its place on the Tunisian political field.
TsoP alumni now numbers over 400 and their capacities and skills in multiparty co-operation are further strengthened through alumni trainings. 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. A specific gender equality training is also held annually.
In addition to the national School of Politics, TsoP also facilitates the Maghreb class, a regional school of politics to strengthen and stabilize democracy in the region. Politicians, academics and activists from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Libya are invited to participate.
In 2016 TsoP also set up a high-level multiparty dialogue forum. 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.
The programme also supports political parties in strategic planning and implementing party strategies as well as trains politicians in a parliamentary academy. The Nouabook -website is an innovation of TsoP that allows voters to follow up with politicians and discuss political issues.
Results of our work:
- Between 2012-2016 TsoP trained a hundred young politicians per year and from 2016, 50 young politicians have participated yearly. Further training sessions annually are available for the alumni.
- 20 young members of the 2011 Constitutional Assembly participated to the first courses of the Tunisian School of Politics.
- In 2014 elections around 25 % of the then 200 alumni were candidates. 14 alumni were elected to the first post-revolution parliament and three of them were given ministerial offices.
- 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.
- In the municipal elections of 2018, 61 out of the alumni ran as candidates. 32 of them were women and altogether 11 alumni, all women, got elected. One of the female alumni was elected as the Mayor of Tunis.
- TsoP alumni have risen to high positions in their parties and they have trained their party colleagues in turn.
- 10 parties have drafted party strategies, and their implementation is being monitored.
- The parliamentary academy set up in 2018 trained 53 MP’s in its first year.
- 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.