Since 2011, the Arab world has witnessed successive waves of popular revolts aimed at toppling entrenched tyrannical regimes. While the experiences of individual countries vary, uniting all the revolutions in the region is the desire of its people to forge democratic systems of government in which leaders are elected by free and fair elections. To better understand these political transitions, the Tunis branch of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) will host an academic symposium on “Elections and the Democratic Transition: A Comparative Approach”, on March 5-7, 2015.
Over the course of three days, scholars from across the globe will gather in Tunisia to examine the experiences that have come to define the Arab Spring; to evaluate the various electoral processes and to discuss democratic transition in the region. Academics attending the symposium will present various case studies from the Arab world, especially from the Maghreb. They will be joined by scholars whose expertise lies in historical experiences of democratization that are further afield, such as Romania. Discussants will also address the question of transitional justice, the role of religion and cultural values in shaping democratic transition, and the way in which electoral processes shape the formation of political elites.
Tunisia provides an ideal venue for the meeting: not only did Tunisia start the Arab Spring but it has proven to be the most promising case of democratic transition in the region. Characterizing Tunisia’s transition, however, is also its rich legacy of civil society organizations and trade unions, an important factor when assessing which elements of Tunisia’s success are due to its specific context, and which can provide general lessons to be applied throughout the region.