Support for the first free elections since the fall of the Ben Ali regime
Fair and free election of the Constituent Assembly – Switzerland assists Tunisia’s transition towards democracy
After 23 years of dictatorial rule under President Ben Ali, Tunisia held its first free elections on 23 October 2011. Switzerland, at Tunisia’s request, assisted with every stage of the election process. Not only did it offer the electoral authorities technical and financial assistance, it also helped reinforce the independent national and international election observation missions. These truly free and fair elections constitute a major milestone in Tunisia’s path towards democracy.
Under mounting pressure from the public and several members of parliament, President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia on 14 January 2011, bringing to an end his 23-year-long authoritarian regime. Elections were held on 23 October 2011 to choose the new Constituent Assembly whose job it will be to draft a new national Constitution.
Switzerland’s contribution to the election process focused on two specific areas:
1) Strengthening the indepedent Tunisian electoral commission (Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Élections ISIE)
Technical assistance: at the request of the ISIE chairman, two Swiss experts were dispatched to Tunisia in the run-up to the elections. They worked with the competent authorities to resolve technical questions that arose during preparatory work for the elections (e.g. what should happen to the ballot papers and electoral protocols once the various polling stations had counted the votes?).
Financial assistance: by contributing funds to the electoral assistance programme run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Switzerland helped strengthen the electoral authorities in Tunisia. In doing so, Switzerland was also able to secure a seat on the coordinating body, which is made up of the main donors. Swiss funds were used to purchase 12'000 ballot boxes that met with international standards. This bolstered voter confidence in the electoral process.
2) Support of election observation missions
Local observers: Switzerland contributed to the establishment of local electoral observation missions by providing financial support to Democracy Reporting International (DRI), which ran training seminars and programmes for local organisations in the run-up to the elections. In addition, the DRI also shared its expertise on international election and election monitoring standards, as well as on the attendant legal issues. The DRI therefore played a major role in preparing and training local observers, with assistance from the following partners in particular: the Association Tunisienne pour l’Éveil Démocratique (ATED), the Association Mourakiboun, and the Association Tunisienne pour l’Intégrité et la Démocratie des Élections (ATIDE).
International observers: Tunisia requested the presence of international election observers, which included the Electoral Observation Missions of the European Union (EU), the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) and the Council of Europe (its delegation was led by Swiss parliamentarian, Andreas Gross). Representations from other countries were also invited to visit the polling stations on the day of the elections. This provided staff at the Swiss Embassy in Tunisia with an opportunity to witness this historic event first hand.
12 Swiss nationals in all took part in the EU and OIF observation missions, which were arranged at the request of Tunisia. Their observations and analyses were included in the final declarations.
Independent international observation missions helped to ensure that the elections were fair, free, transparent and democratic. Furthermore, they bolstered voter confidence in the electoral process and helped prevent electoral fraud, intimidation and violence.
An important step towards democracy
Cooperation between the Directorate of Political Affairs and the SDC
The project in brief
Federal institutions involved
Election assistance, monitoring and observation
Free and fair election of the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia
Additional Information and Documents
The popular uprising in Tunisia at the beginning of 2011 threw society and state structures into tur...