With nearly two months to go before constituent assembly elections, Tunisia confronts a long list of challenges to the creation of a democratic system. Expectations for swift and wide-ranging reforms are very high among a population hungry for change after decades of harsh authoritarian rule. Ordinary citizens are eager to enjoy the benefits of meaningful political freedom and economic prosperity, having endured unrelenting repression, mismanagement, and the plundering of resources by a small circle around the family of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The political uncertainty in the wake of the dictator’s departure has taken a toll on the Tunisian economy and its tourism sector in particular, on which some 500,000 people in this country of 10 million depend for employment. The ongoing conflict in neighboring Libya is another encumbrance, as it deprives Tunisia of much-needed trade revenue and generates regional instability.
Testimony by David J. Kramer, Freedom House President, before the House Committee on Foreign Afrs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia on the state of democracy and human rights in Eastern Europe, July 26, 2011.