Popular Support for Military Intervention and Anti-Establishment Alternatives in Tunisia: Appraising Outsider Eclecticism
Dr. Holger Albrecht (University of Alabama)
Journal Article in Mediterranean Politics, September 2, 2021
Popular attitudes in support of authoritarian alternatives and weak party systems constitute important threats to democratic consolidation and the stability of new democracies. This article explores popular alienation from established political actors in Tunisia. Under what conditions do citizens support alternatives to the elites in power and the institutional infrastructure of a new democracy? Drawing on an original, nationally representative survey in Tunisia administered in 2017, this article examines three categories of popular attitudes in support of political outsiders. Military interventionism appears in people’s preferences for anti-system politics—the most immediate challenge to the country’s stability and democratic transition. Anti-political establishment sentiments are shown in people’s preferences for an enhanced role of the country’s main trade union as a civil-society alternative to political party elites. Finally, outsider eclecticism is the seemingly incoherent phenomenon of concurrent support for a civil society actor and the military as an ‘authoritarian alternative.’ Anti-establishment sentiments will continue to be an important element in Tunisian post-authoritarian politics, evidenced by the rise to power of Kais Said in the 2019 presidential elections and his 2021 decision to dismiss parliament. In turn, popular support for military intervention may have implications for the country’s domestic security and peaceful transition.