One conclusion should strictly be derived from the results of the Tunisian presidential elections: there is nothing unpredictable about the outcomes.
The excitement of bringing about political change after 2011, has subsided due to unstable economy and confusing politics. Many factors have contributed to the buildup of this new political scene. Various elements impacted the course of the events in Tunisia, namely, social and political ones.
Generational Differences
If these elections have proven something, that would be the generational difference between what modern sociology calls the boomers and generation Z. Two generations with different visions and expectations. The revolution has produced diverge aspirations and, we can observe this diversity throughout the 2019 elections’ results. In one hand, there is the classic vision based on traditional demands related to economic fulfillments and social safety. In another hand, there is this new wave of unorthodox alternatives; and this wave is seeking new system of governance and new social formation.
Who are they and what’s their demands?
To put together a coherent explanation, we must understand the history of both sides.
The boomers’ generation is all individuals born between 1946 and 1964. It is the demographical cohort who lived in the post-war era, which means that they were the most to endure the hardships and aftermaths of war and colonization.
Whereas, generation Z is the ensemble of individuals born mid or late 1990s and early or mid-2000s. They are the young people who grew up during the Ben Ali era and, they were young during the revolution.
The difference between both generations is palpable. Both sides of the spectrum have went through drastic different events and, therefore, have different concerns.
For instance, the boomers have felt threatened by the tide of crisis that were obliterating their livelihood and their security. The post revolution phase has created unstable economic, social and political scene. Throughout the last 9 years the country has went through a slow metamorphosis. This tedious phase has created a tense social and political sphere. Thus, we can observe this strain throughout the results of the first round of the 2019’s presidential elections. 45.3% from the 46 to beyond the age 60 have emotionally and consciously voted for Nabil Karoui who promised them a “social contract against poverty” and an advanced economic transformation.
Whereas, the younger generation who is still embracing the revolution spirit, has been looking for revolutionary alternatives to the social and political scene. The generation Z is looking for a clean slate; a person who they deem as a renegade against the established system and, therefore 57.3% from the age of 18 to 45 has voted for him. The system which they believe has failed to achieve the aims of the revolution. This generation aspire to build a corruption-free system, which is based on equitable distribution of resources. Therefore, they voted for Kaïs Saïed who proposed a new State model, based on the bottom up approach; which promotes the idea of that governance should starts from local communities until it reaches the top of the State. These communities will be ruled by local costumed laws, that differs from one governorate to another for the purpose of effective local governance. He offered them an alternative method to combat corruption and achieve equity and justice.
The fall of the “father” figure.
The results of the 2019’s presidential elections are a public announcement to the fall of the traditional “father” figure and an announcement of a new era of symbols. In this new era of symbolism, Nabil Karoui would be the “shepherd”— the one president who would tend to his people needs and, who would understand their desperations and frustrations to have a functional and profitable economic cycle. Additionally, they are aspiring to have a president who is close to them and who have spent the last 3 years devoting his time to provide them with the necessities that the government has failed to attend to.
Whereas, Kaïs Saïed would be the “sage of the new movement” and the “wise Solomon”— for his fellowship, he is the voice of knowledge. The person who is proposing a new utopian future, where there is no place for corruption and vice; and where power is to people by the law and the constitution. Through, Kaïs Saïed, their dreams of fairness, justice and equity would be fulfilled. For, his fellows, the president should be a “law guru” who would protect the new State by the power of people and the constitution.
The “father” might has fallen but new figures are rising, and the cycle of symbolism is vicious. The people necessity to have a guiding figure, regardless of its form, is manifested in their actions and choices. The need for someone and/or something to help the people walk the right path and overcome hardships will always be present because in the popular vision; the people are too feeble to decide for their own and, therefore they need that unique leader to take care of them.
The ability of prediction has been lost on the local media.
The problem of media is that, they were too focused on promoting a social, economic, and political models based on 2014 electorates choices. The analysts and journalists were overwhelmed by the 2014 elections’ results, and therefore were not able to predict the outcomes of the 2019 elections.
They were not able to read the choices and deeds of those who decided to boycott the previous elections, as well as, of those who were not registered during the last elections whether by choice or age obligations. The Tunisian media was blindsided by the classical clashes between the left and the right, the Islamists and the seculars and the liberals and conservatives. And, therefore, were not able to foresee that classical differences are no longer shaping the Tunisian society. This misstep reflects the fact that the media is not as diversified as it supposed to be, or as media outlets claim it is. Journalists are in their ivory tower, disconnected from the society and oblivious to their demands and their needs. They are unaware of the possibility that they are no longer representing the majority of the people. Yet, they are vacuously making the same mistake when it comes to 2019 elections’ result using propaganda and misleading terminology when describing the elections’ outcomes. For instance, several media outlets are using terms as rattling news, unpredictable results, tragical elections. Thus, refusing to accept that the gap between them and the people do exist. And, therefore, they are disregarding the fact that what they represent is only the dominant minority who have an overwhelming dominance over the media scene, despite being a small fraction of the overall Tunisian population.
Today, Tunisian individuals are looking for candidates whether in the presidential elections or the legislative one that see them, understand them and most importantly resemble them. Leaders that would be able to see through their frustrations and aspirations, whether for better life standards or for equity and justice.
Additionally, the 2014 winners who formed the parliament and the government have gone through dramatic divisions and disputes; which have weakened their visions and, therefore deepened the gap between them and their electorates and more generally the Tunisian people. Thus, it affected the flow of 2019 elections and, resulted on the rise of the new school of politicians who have abandoned traditional campaigning methods to embrace new approaches, as refusing financial aids and, presenting not electoral programs but rather alternative social and political models.
However, the media has misread these signs and, deemed these unconventional practices as impractical and futile. This judgement has led them to unpredict the results of 2019 elections.
What to expect?
Regardless of the results, Tunisia is bound to witness a new era of governance. The political, economic and social sphere will go through drastic changes; alliances will disappear, and others will be conceived. The Tunisian society has surprisingly, however, predictably chosen a different battle, from that of their politicians and their parties. In 2019 elections, it was not a matter of numbers and it was not about the notion of majority, but it was rather about individuality. Perhaps, these elections would be the birth of the Democracy of Individualism, where the individual citizen is the most important unit in a democratic country. And, therefore, the ultimate player in a game of new social and political differences.