Freedom in the World
A state-run media campaign in 2010 called for constitutional amendments that would lift the age limit on presidential candidates, allowing President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to run for a sixth term in 2014. Throughout the year, the authorities continued to harass, arrest, and imprison journalists and bloggers, human rights activists, and political opponents of the government, and a law passed in June imposed new criminal restrictions on opposition activity. Antigovernment demonstrations broke out in late December, sparked by the self-immolation of a fruit vendor protesting police harassment.
Tunisia is not an electoral democracy. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has exercised authoritarian rule since seizing power in a coup in 1987. Beginning in 1989, he won five consecutive five-year terms in tightly controlled elections, either running unopposed or easily defeating token challengers. A2002 referendum removed the constitution’s three-term limit for the presidency and raised the maximum age for presidential candidates from 70 to 75. A package of amendments in 2008 lowered the voting age from 20 to 18 and effectively barred presidential candidates other than the elected leaders of political parties who had served at least two years or those who obtained nominations from at least 30 lawmakers or local councilors.