Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in getting the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. BEN ALI is currently serving his fifth consecutive five-year term as president. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
18 years of age; universal except for active government security forces (including the police and the military), people with mental disabilities, people who have served more than three months in prison (criminal cases only), and people given a suspended sentence of more than six months
president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held on 25 October 2009 (next to be held in October 2014); prime minister appointed by the president
President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected for a fifth term; percent of vote - Zine El Abidine BEN ALI 89.6%, Mohamed BOUCHIHA 5%, Ahmed INOUBLI 3.8%, Ahmed BRAHIM 1.6%; voter turnout 89.4%
bicameral system consists of the Chamber of Advisors (126 seats; 85 members elected by municipal counselors, deputies, mayors, and professional associations and trade unions; 41 members are presidential appointees; members serve six-year terms); and the Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (214 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Chamber of Advisors - last held on 3 July 2005 (next to be held in July 2011); Chamber of Deputies - last held on 25 October 2009 (next to be held in October 2014);
Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - RCD 84.6%, MDS 4.6%, PUP 3.4%, UDU 2.6%, PSL 2.2%, PVP 1.7%, Al-Tajdid 0.5%; seats by party - RCD 161, MDS 16, PUP 12, UDU 9, PSL 8, PVP 6, Al-Tajdid 2; voter turnout 89.4%
Al-Tajdid Movement [Ahmed IBRAHIM]; Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique) or RCD [President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI] (official ruling party); Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL [Mustapha Ben JAFAAR]; Green Party for Progress or PVP [Mongi KHAMASSI]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mondher THABET]; Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ismail BOULAHYA]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed BOUCHIHA]; Progressive Democratic Party [Maya JERIBI]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Ahmed INOUBLI]; note - the Islamist party, Al Nahda (Renaissance), is outlawed
red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; resembles the Ottoman flag (red banner with white crescent and star) and recalls Tunisia's history as part of the Ottoman Empire; red represents the blood shed by martyrs in the struggle against oppression, white stands for peace; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam
note:the flag is based on that of Turkey, itself a succesor state to the Ottoman Empire
Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth, which averaged almost 5% over the past decade, declined to 4.6% in 2008 and to 0.3% in 2009 because of economic contraction and slowing of import demand in Europe - Tunisia's largest export market. However, development of non-textile manufacturing, a recovery in agricultural production, and strong growth in the services sector somewhat mitigated the economic effect of slowing exports. Tunisia will need to reach even higher growth levels to create sufficient employment opportunities for an already large number of unemployed as well as the growing population of university graduates. The challenges ahead include: privatizing industry, liberalizing the investment code to increase foreign investment, improving government efficiency, reducing the trade deficit, and reducing socioeconomic disparities in the impoverished south and west.
general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; telephone network is completely digitized; Internet access available throughout the country
in an effort to jumpstart expansion of the fixed-line network, the government has awarded a concession to build and operate a VSAT network with international connectivity; rural areas are served by wireless local loops; competition between the two mobile-cellular service providers has resulted in lower activation and usage charges and a strong surge in subscribership; a third mobile, fixed, and ISP operator was licensed in 2009 and will begin offering services in 2010; expansion of mobile-cellular services to include multimedia messaging and e-mail and Internet to mobile phone services also leading to a surge in subscribership; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is about 95 telephones per 100 persons
country code - 216; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; 2 international gateway digital switches
broadcast media is mainly government-controlled; the state-run Tunisian Radio and Television Establishment (ERTT) operates 2 national television networks, several national radio networks, and a number of regional radio stations; 1 TV and 3 radio stations are privately-owned and report domestic news stories directly from the official Tunisian news agency; the state retains control of broadcast facilities and transmitters through L'Office National de la Telediffusion; Tunisians also have access to Egyptian, pan-Arab, and European satellite TV channels (2007)