Constitutional Background

The Tunisian constitution has been amended several times after 1991, substantially affecting elections, parliament, and eligibility of the president.  The ICL edition does not yet include these changes.

The 1991 Constitution enumerates the legitimate purposes for legal restrictions of basic rights (Art. 7).  For eligibility to the National Parliament, a citizen must be "born of a Tunisian father" (Art. 21).  The President's religion is to be Islam (Art. 38, 40).

The Democratic Constitutional Rally (DCR) of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali renders the six legal opposition parties virtually meaningless.  The economically successful Singapore-style regime of President Ben Ali increased the police forces to 80.000 (four times the number of 1987) to supervise Tunisia's nine million people.  According to Amnesty International, Tunisia keeps several thousand political prisoners in jail.  Among them is the former newspaper editor Mohamed Kilani who is serving five years for possessing a cartoon put out by the banned Ennahda Party.  The leader of the small opposition party Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS), Mohamed Mouadda, currently (Jan 1996) faces espionage charges with the possibility of a death sentence after publishing an open letter to the president calling for greater political freedom.

History and News

  • 24 Oct 1999: Ben Ali is re-elected with 99.44% of the vote.
  • March 1994: Ben Ali is re-elected with 99% of the vote. His DCR party holds 88% of the seats in parliament.
  • 1990: Firebomb attack on an DCR party headquarters in Tunis are leading to harsh government crackdown on the Islamist opposition 'An-Nahda'.
  • 7 Nov 1987: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Prime Minister and constitutionally ordained successor, replaces the octogenarian independence leader Habib Bourguiba as President.
  • 12 July 1988: Significant amendment to the constituion, permitting the president to serve for three five-year terms. Legislative elections are held every 5 years.  The president has full responsibility for determining national policy.  Presidential bills have priority before the Chamber of Deputies.  The president may govern by decree when the Chamber is not in session.  In the presidentially appointed cabinet, the prime minister is responsible for executive policy and succeeds the president in case of death or disability.
  • 1 June 1959: First Constitution of the Republic is adopted.
  • 25 July 1957: First President Habib Bourguib declares Tunisia a Republic.
  • 20 March 1956: Independence from France.
  • 1934: New Destour party becomes main promotor of Tunisian independence.
  • 1920: Foundation of the Liberal Constitutional Party (Destour) by Tunisian nationalists.
  • 1881: France declares Tunisia a Protectorate.
  • 16th century: Control by the Ottoman empire.
  • 1492: Muslim Andalusian immigrants expelled from Spain are arriving in Tunisia.
  • 7th century: Islamic conquest reaches Tunisia.
  • 6th century: Byzantines replace Vandals influence.
  • 5th century: Vandals replace Roman influence.
  • 2nd century BC: Fall of ancient Carthage, territorial Tunisia becomes part of the Roman Empire.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - 11.2.2022 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.