The Double Edge: Contradictory Functions of Civil Society Organizations in the Tunisian Democratic Process
Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)
Second Committee Member
Advocacy Coalition Framework, Arab Spring, Civil Society, Democratization, Tunisia
“Democratic transition,” the act of becoming democratic, and “democratic consolidation,” the subsequent actions that solidify the achievement of becoming democratic, are two separate processes that go hand in hand. While several Arab Spring nations overthrew their dictators, fewer underwent a democratic transition, and only one – Tunisia – achieved democratic consolidation (Bouchlaghem and Thepaut, 2019; Sadiki, 2019; Gianni, 2019). Tunisia constitutes the sole Arab Spring country to have: 1) created and adopted a new constitution; 2) formed and institutionalized political parties that peacefully share power; and 3) achieved multiple rounds of free and fair elections (Al-Anani, 2014; Yerkes, 2019). Scholarly consensus credits Tunisia’s civil society, a presence which predates the Arab Spring, with the nation’s successful democratization (Boose, 2013; Yerkes, 2019; Giani, 2019).
Despite the clear benefits of its vibrant civil society, Tunisia’s democratic transition and subsequent democratic consolidation were not without challenges. Some of these challenges have been resolved, while others represent serious ongoing factors that must continue to be managed (Chabkoun, 2015). Thus, an examination into Tunisia’s transition to democracy suggests that the scholarly consensus that a vibrant civil society has a uniformly positive influence on democratization lacks nuance, and if ignored in Tunisia’s future policymaking, threatens to derail Tunisia’s democratic gains.
In order to understand the full impact of civil society organizations have on the Tunisian democratic process, I chose to delineate my research project into three distinct units – each unit becoming its own chapter in my dissertation. The first article provides an extensive scholarly overview of the role of civil society in Tunisia, grappling with the oftentimes self-contradictory nature of civil society activity in Tunisia. The second article is a qualitative analysis of the collected data that contributed to my development of the central research question. The third article contains contextualizes these paradoxical tendencies of Tunisian civil society, and their associated contradictory results, employing Advocacy Coalition Framework as a lens through which to view Tunisia’s current public policy environment. Overall, the empirical and theoretical contribution of this dissertation will address a critical gap in the scholarly literature about the impact of civil society organizations in post-revolution Tunisia. My research will also advance the use of Advocacy Coalition Framework in future scholarship by delivering a comprehensive study of Tunisia, which future scholars may use as a basis for new comparative case study work and providing a model for the application of Advocacy Coalition Framework to other newly formed democracies.
Ben Ali, D. (2021). The Double Edge: Contradictory Functions of Civil Society Organizations in the Tunisian Democratic Process. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/4066