Tunisian Political Crisis: A 6 Month Forecast


    Tunisia is in a state of political and social turmoil due to the rising cost of living and unresolved systemic issues left unchecked since the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. Protesters regularly take to the streets over the price of basic goods and services. President Kais Saied won a referendum to radically alter the Tunisian political structure in July. Events in the Ukraine placed an even greater strain on an already fraught situation. How the country’s political leadership decides to address these issues will greatly affect Tunisia’s stability going forward in the next few months. 

    KJ-1: It is highly likely that the Tunisian economy will suffer increased pressure and low performance in the next 6 months. 

    • The COVID-19 pandemic seriously damaged the health of the Tunisian economy, especially the tourism and trade sector. Government measures did nothing to address the spiking unemployment rate [source].
    • Tunisia is a net importer of energy, grains and cereals, and was strongly impacted by the war in Ukraine [source]. 
    • Tunisia expects to secure a deal with the IMF for a loan of at least $2 billion over the next 3 years [source]. 
    • The conditions of the IMF loan will impose austerity measures which include cuts to state-sector employment and state-owned firms [source]. 
    • The government only recently agreed to a deal with the country’s leading labor union over the terms of the IMF loan, following a strike which effectively shut down Tunisia. Agreement with the union was a precondition for the IMF loan [source]. 
    • The deal also includes cuts to state subsidies for key areas of industry [source]. 
    • Tunisia’s bond rating was downgraded due to the increased risks of fiscal and external liquidity, unsustainable budget deficits, a high rate of inflation and poor performances with past IMF loans [source]. 

    KJ-2: It is likely that the Tunisian economic crisis will spark additional widespread civil unrest in the next 6 months.

    • Nearly 13,500 Tunisians crossed the Mediterranean in lifeboats in an attempt to reach EU territory this year [source].  
    • Tunisian shops and markets struggle to find basic goods, most notably bottled water and dairy products. A widely circulated video purports to show individuals fighting over sugar in a supermarket [source]. 
    • President Saied suggested that the government ban the imports of “luxury items” such as women’s cosmetics and pet food [source]. 
    • The president further courted the public ire after leaked documents revealed the presidential palace ordered $450,000 (1.1 million dinars) worth of red meat in July [source]. 
    • Unemployment currently stands at 18.5% and the government is reportedly unable to finance subsidies [source]. 
    • Protests erupted in Tunis in May demanding the return to normal democratic rule [source]. 
    • Protests erupted again in July after the results of the referendum confirmed President Saied’s new draft constitution [source].  
    • Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Tunis to voice concerns over rampant inflation and the lack of basic goods in shops [source]. 
    • Protests were sparked after a fruit vendor committed suicide after his equipment was seized for selling without permission. Police cracked down on the demonstrators with tear gas [source]. 
    • Opposition political parties are filing lawsuits to contest the referendum results [source]. 

    KJ-3: It is likely that armed extremist groups will continue to threaten Tunisian internal security in the next 6 months. 

    • Tunisian security services engaged Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi (KUIN) and Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia (JAK-T) in the northwestern governorates since 2018. The groups are linked to AQIM and ISIS respectively [source]. 
    • While both groups are relatively small and do not hold territory, JAK-T is responsible for various attacks targeting the security services in 2020 and 2021 [source]. 
    • Tunisian security services killed 3 JAK-T militants in a joint operation on 2 September [source]. 
    • Following the security operations in Kasserine, the Tunisian military set up checkpoints and increased security presence in the area [source].
    • Al-Qaeda affiliates in Tunisia, particularly Ansar al-Sharia, demonstrated the ability to build and sustain popular support among rural communities in previous years [source]. 
    • Armed extremist groups in Tunisia’s northeast draw foreign fighters from Libya. Over 12,000 Tunisians attempted to join ISIS in Iraq and over 5,500 attempted to travel to Syria [source]. 
    • It is believed that nearly 500 of those fighters managed to return to Tunisia [source]. 

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 28 September, 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University. He works in the private sector in field investigations and security.

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