Tunisia: The Land Of A 1001 Political Parties

It’s been just a bit over 55 years since Tunisia got its independence from France; 55 years through which the country and its people, almost three generations of Tunisians, knew only 2 presidents, 1 political party and no options whatsoever.

Sure, there were a handful of other political parties in the country, some recognized as legal opposition and others banned and illegal; it didn’t matter what their status was though, other than occasionally hearing their names around play-election time, the average Tunisian on the streets had no idea who they were or what they stood for; after all, why bother when they had no chance, and were either willingly or unwillingly nothing more than puppets in a game of “let’s act like we’re a democracy”, that would end with the mighty “chosen one” winning yet another mandate.

And even though it seemed like things would go on forever that way defying all laws of nature and logic, it all started crumbling down and falling apart suddenly and to everyone’s surprise. The date of January 14th 2011 earned a place in history books, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for the country.

Following that, and in full post-revolutionary spirit, raising the banner of freedom and political pluralism, the doors were thrown wide open for all existing political parties to be recognized, and well for everyone and anyone who would like to take a go at it to register their new fresh political party too. The more the merrier, or something like that.

Political parties started popping up like fungi all over the place, putting in applications and getting legalized in batches of tens and dozens. Some of the names leading these new parties are ones Tunisians are slightly familiar with someway or another, some are members of the old guard who served for years on the dark side but yet seem to think Tunisians will believe they weren’t in on the action or that they hold the secret to a post-RCD cleaning and purification process, and then there are the ones most Tunisians never ever heard of.

All of a sudden, Tunisians went from a situation where the political scene was a quasi-empty one and it was normal that they knew no one, to a situation where the scene has burst open at the seams with new parties joining the carnival every day and yet they have the feeling they still don’t really know anyone.

A very important election on July 24th 2011 is inching closer and closer, an election that will carry enormous ramifications for the country and its future, and yet the Tunisian political scene is a big mess and in total disarray, buzzing with a variety of political party names most people can’t translate into positions or agendas they can identify or not identify with.

Political pluralism is great, but too much political pluralism kills political pluralism, or however the saying goes; there’s no way people are going to be able to keep up with over 65 political parties (as of today, who knows about tomorrow); and as we really need as many Tunisians as possible to get involved in the process, exercise their rights and vote for the future of the country; this is obviously not the right way forward.

Now, I think it’s very obvious that there’s no way all these parties will or can come up with entirely different agendas and platforms; in fact once they actually get around to putting their agendas together, it should be pretty easy to put them all in buckets of parties that pretty much stand for the same ideas and principles. Logically, these should be merged, and should pool whatever resources they have to be able to get their message out and start rallying supporters around a clear programme.

Consolidation. That is the keyword; that’s what the next step should be, and it should be done quickly, so that things can be taken to the next level, and so people can start making more sense of what’s out there.
Even though it might seem slightly counter-intuitive to many politicians, but logically speaking they have better chances of getting to power when grouped and merged together, with more resources, more exposure and less competition spitting out the exact same recycled message.
It’s starting to happen already, with a couple of parties who just announced their union and who might be getting a third party on board with them; but we need all political parties out there to be thinking the same way: who could we potentially team up with to win?

By doing that, not only would these political parties increase their chances of winning, but they’d also positively contribute to creating winning conditions for the country and the people, by making it easier for all Tunisians to get involved, make their informed picks and vote for the future.