History of Tunisia: Political Change

History of Tunisia: Political Change Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

Tunisia strengthened its ties with the Arab world during the mid-sixties, and relations with both Algeria and Morocco improved dramatically. Meanwhile, France withdrawal of all financial aid from Tunisia, resulted in serious economic problems.

In 1964, the former Neo-Destour Party became known as the Parti Socialiste Destourien (Destourian Socialist Party) and President Bourguiba was reelected by a huge majority. Although strong links were being forged with Saudi Arabia at this time, relations with other Arab countries, particularly Egypt, began to decline, resulting in Tunisia's eventual boycott of Arab League meetings.

Bourguiba's third term of office began in November 1969, and in March 1975 he was proclaimed "President for life", in recognition of his services to the country. On the 7th of November 1987, Tunisia entered a new era when Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who at the time was Prime Minister and the constitutionally ordained prudential successor, became the republics second president after President Bourguiba became unable, for health reasons, to continue assuming the duties of the office.

Political tension, which had been simmering before Bourguiba's removal from power, had by then calmed down. A multi-party system was set up and many political prisoners were released; the press restrictions were also eased.

Tunisia's first free elections since 1956 were held in April 1989 and ben Ali's Democratic Constitutional Assembly Party won a landslide victory. Zine el-Abidine ben Ali was elected President with no opposition.

Islamic fundamentalism began to gain a foothold in Tunisia during the early 1990s, resulting in a government crackdown on Muslim militants.

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