Supporting political debate while building patterns of trust: the role of the German political foundations in Tunisia (1989–2017)
21 janvier 2019
Par Pietro Marzo (doctorant)
This article focuses on a specific aspect of the international context surrounding the Tunisian transition to democracy. Through the case of the German political foundations in Tunisia, this study argues that the country’s journey to democracy has not been an exclusively domestic affair, but has also been the product of the engagement of international actors and their interplay with domestic groups. Building on evidence from semi-structured interviews and data triangulation the article shows that since the late 1980s four German political foundations operating in Tunisia created platforms for ‘political debate’ – alternative to the regime’s but not subversive – and encouraged political training. The article posits that initially the German political foundations helped Ben Ali’s regime in the making of a ‘façade liberalisation’, while in the long run their activities generated unintended consequences that in part undermined its ‘authoritarianism upgraded’. The article demonstrates that their longstanding presence on the ground allowed the German political foundations to develop patterns of trust with and between political and civil groups, ultimately improving the capacity of their action after the revolution.