In 2010 in Tunisia started the protest wave which became known as the Jasmine Revolution. The following year Ben Ali – who was in power since 23 years – was overthrown and the first free elections in the country’s history brought in power a political alliance – tasked to draft a new constitution – whose strong islamist character is embodied by Ennahda, Tunisia’s first political party.
Since then a wave of religious fervour is spreading through the population, and in the streets have made their reappearance veils, nihabs and burqas. Three years later though, Tunisia is divided once again, with a progressive and secular formation, Nida Tounes, which has proved able to gather many of the old regime’s survivors, some deluded from the left coalition and moderate, and put them together to fight the religious advance.
Only slightly bothered by a few minor parties – including Hamma Hammami’s far left and megalomaniac television racoon Hechmi el-Hamdi – the two main antagonist are showing the muscles before the presidential elections, expected by the end of the present year.
Although the new Tunisian constitution lowed down the president’s power to highlight the Prime Minister’s role, the head of state is still seen as a key figure to conquer the people’s heart. The presidential’s results may become a decisive step for a good start in the legislative elections.
The tension is high and the international media talk about ‘Carthage Syndrome‘ to describe the elevated tension risen around it. Even so, participation is expected to be low – around 50 per cent – which the analyst explain as a reflexive phase by the people who want to see some results before taking a stand.
In the meanwhile in Tunis manifestations and protests are often filling the streets and the presence of military forces in the capital’s town centre is high. Barriers and barbed wire are to be seen around the town’s landmarks and now and then someone spreads the talk about some clash. Beside that, life in Tunis goes on, quite and imperturbable.
Grey and chaotic, Tunis most definitely does not have the charm of Tunisia’s renowned tourist destination. Through the crowded Avenue Bourguiba is displayed what remains of French colonialism’s elegant architectural style. Who for some reason ends up in this lively town should have a look at the ancient medina, hidden by the imposing medieval walls, or try to enjoy the beaches in La Marsa – about one hour by train from the city centre – while tasting the spicy local threats and contemplating the rich and variegated Tunisian society where old traditions and new habits often mix together, as well as discontent and longing for stability, worries and hopes.