The European Union is still actively engaged in the Tunisian democratic transition. The European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D Group) is looking into ways to bring progressive center-left forces in the North African country into the fold in order to prop up the transition ahead of the first post-revolution municipality poll.
Tunisia was supposed to hold its first municipality election on 17 December – the first one since the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, a number of democratic reforms have been introduced, including the adoption of a new constitution. However, the electoral commission said that the election would be put off following a meeting between representatives of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, President Beji Caid Essebsi and party leaders. Tunisian media reported that a new date for the election could be March 2018 but it is not confirmed yet.
Elena Valenciano, S&D Group Vice-President responsible for foreign policy, commented that the conversations between all of Tunisia’s progressive parties are indispensable to enable the country to handle its socio-economic and democratic challenges. “A more united center-left will be in a stronger position to carry out reforms that promote sustainable and quality jobs, and the geographical and social cohesion of the country,” she said. The S&D will co-organize a conference with the Global Progressive Forum in Tunis, which seeks to lobby for the “progressive platform”.
In the meantime, Tunisia has made another step towards liberalism by pledging to stop forcing suspected homosexuals to undergo anal examinations. However, homosexuality is still punishable by three years in prison under Article 230 of the country’s criminal code, which, as President Beji Caid Essebsi has recently indicated, would not be repealed. Tunisian leaders say that civil society must first be prepared for such a change in a Muslim country. Open debates on different kinds of issues, including the situation of gay and lesbian community, were kick-started by the liberal-democratic transition following the 2011 Arab Spring revolution.