Better late than never. But Carl Bildt’s awkward question remains: how could the RCD be allowed to become and stay a full member in the first place? It has imposed its police state on Tunisia for over 50 years.
Between winning independence from France and abolition of the monarchy in 1957 and the toppling of the regime this month, Tunisia has had two presidents: independence hero turned dictator Habib Bourguiba (1957-1987), and the now exiled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (1987-2011). In the same period the Socialist International has had seven presidents and five secretaries-general (including the incumbents).
Maybe the Presidium’s suspicions at Tunisia’s remarkable display of continuity were lulled by the RCD’s stellar election results. After all, such displays of popular adulation must surely be sincere:
Share of vote for RCD candidate in Tunisian Presidential elections
1959: 100% (only candidate)
1964: 100% (only candidate)
1969: 100% (only candidate)
1974: 100% (only candidate)
Habib Bourguiba declared President for Life in 1975 so no presidential elections until…
1989: 97.27% (only candidate, other votes blank or invalid)
1994: 99.92% (only candidate, other votes blank or invalid)
1999: 99.45% (two opposition candidates on ballot)
2004: 94.49% (three opposition candidates on ballot)
2009: 89.62% (four opposition candidates on ballot)
And in 2002 a constitutional referendum was passed with 99.52% of the vote, abolishing term limits and raising the maximum age for the presidency. Parliamentary elections have also reliably returned stonking majorities for the ruling party. (Source for table: Wikipedia.)
So, did the Socialist International have a complete suspension of disbelief? Or did realpolitik trump these ringing words from the Socialist International’s Declaration of Principles (adopted in 1989, the same year Mr Ben Ali won his first “landslide” election victory)?
…it is only possible to speak of democracy if people have a free choice between various political alternatives in the framework of free elections; if there is a possibility for a change of government by peaceful means based on the free will of the people; if individual and minority rights are guaranteed; and, if there is an independent judicial system based on the rule of law impartially applied to all citizens. Political democracy is an indispensable element of a socialist society.
Update: Alex Folkes highlights an article by Robert Fisk that reminds us that our governments were happy to support “stable” governments in Tunisia and Algeria despite their brutality. Mr Fisk is pessimistic, but Cllr Folkes instead makes some constructive suggestions to help establish democracy.
If you liked this post, why not Flattr it?