Tunisia is a constitutional republic, with a president serving as head of state, prime minister as head of government, a bicameral parliament and a court system influenced by French civil law. While Tunisia is formally a democracy with a multi-party system, the secular Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), formerly Neo Destour, had controlled the country as one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab World since its independence in 1956.
President Ben Ali, previously Habib Bourguiba's minister and a military figure, held office from 1987 to 2011, having acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office in accordance with Article 57 of the Tunisian constitution. The anniversary of Ben Ali’s succession, 7 November, was celebrated as a national holiday. He was consistently re-elected with enormous majorities every election, the last being October 25, 2009, until he fled the country amid popular unrest in January 2011.
In Tunisia, the president is elected to five-year terms. He appoints a prime minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators also are appointed by the central government. Mayors and municipal councils are elected.
The lower house of the bicameral Parliament is the Chamber of Deputies of Tunisia (Majlis al-Nuwaab), which has 214 seats. Members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. At least 25% of the seats in the House of Deputies are reserved for the opposition. More than 27% of the members of the Chamber of Deputies are women. The Lower House plays a growing role as an arena for debate on national policy especially that it hosts representatives from six opposition parties. Opposition members often vote against bills or abstain. Because of the comfortable majority enjoyed by the governing party, bills usually pass with only minor changes.
The Upper House is the Chamber of Advisers, which includes 112 members including representatives of governorates (provinces), professional organisations and national figures. 41 members are appointed by the Head of state while the remainder are elected by their peers. About 15% of the members of the Chamber of Advisers are women.
The Tunisian legal system is based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session. The judiciary is independent, although the judicial council is chaired by the head of state.
conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
local short form: Tunis
geographic coordinates: 36 48 N, 10 11 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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