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16 Jan 2018 10:55
Tunisians protest against the return of jihadists fighting for extremist groups abroad (Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi)
A new report released by the international watchdog organisation Freedom House has raised concerns about Tunisia’s democratic backslide.
Data analysed by the NGO from 195 countries over the past year showed that Tunisia was still the only free country in the Arab world, but the North African state saw its political rights rating decreased from two to three, the report said on Tuesday.
“Municipal elections were once again postponed, leaving unelected councils in place seven years after the revolution, and figures associated with the old regime increased their influence over the vulnerable political system, for example by securing passage of a new amnesty law despite strong public opposition,” said the document titled “Freedom in the World 2018”.
“The extension of a two-year-old state of emergency also signaled the erosion of democratic order in Tunisia.”
Tunisia managed to reach the status of a free country in just four years after the 2011 uprising, but Freedom House warned that 2017’s “sharp democratic declines” threatened to downgrade the achievement.
“The events of the past year indicate that while the international community was quick to praise the country’s achievements, it did not provide enough sustained support and attention,” it said.
“Without careful development and consolidation, the new democracy may prove easy prey for an old guard that was never fully dismantled.”
The report warned that it was important to keep the foothold of democracy “in a repressive and unstable region”.
It said the rest of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa remained with a status of “not free”, except Morocco which it said is “partially free”.
However, “Morocco’s civil liberties score declined from four to five and it received a downward trend arrow due to harsh state responses to major demonstrations throughout the year”, the document said.
According to Freedom House, democratic principles weakened globally for the twelfth consecutive year.
Only 88 out of 195 countries were rated “free”, 58 were “partly free” and 49 — “not free” in its latest report.
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