Bin Ali Authoritarianism and International Factors in Tunisia (1987-2008)


Despite being shaken by the Arab Spring, authoritarian structures still exist in the regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Th is situation highlights the importance of studying the continuity of authoritarian structures more comprehensively. In addition to approaches that reduce authoritarianism to intra-state factors, literature has developed over the last decade emphasizing the importance of international factors. This literature in particular emphasizes the politics, economics, and diplomacy established by the West and that ties are effective in the continuity of authoritarianism in non-Western countries. This study attempts to explain Ben Ali’s period and the continuity of authoritarianism in Tunisia in the context of this developing new literature. Although Tunisia underwent a relatively positive transformation process after the Arab Spring, Ben Ali’s authoritarian rule was supported by the West as a model of an economic miracle and democratic stability; this administration managed to survive for 23 years. The study’s main argument can be expressed as follows: While the economic liberalization process imposed on Tunis by Western actors caused an increase in socio-economic inequalities, the instrumentalization of democracy by the West again served to suppress civil and political freedoms. Instead of focusing on the obstacles and opportunities in front of the transition to democracy in the post-Arab Spring period, examining theinternational factors influencing the continuity of authoritarianism in the Ben Ali period will shed light on how authoritarian structures still survive in MENA.


Authoritarian continuity economic liberalization instrumentalization of democracy international actors Tunisia Ben Ali.