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Real GDP (2009, base 1990) TND 25.813 billion (U.S. $19.13 billion). Real GDP growth rate (2009): 3.1%. Per capita GDP, PPP (2009, IMF est.): $8,254. Natural resources: natural gas, crude oil, phosphates, salt, iron ore. Agriculture: Products--olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products. Industry: Types--petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate), textiles, footwear, food processing, electric and mechanical components. Services: Tourism, commerce, transport, communications. Sector information as percentage of GDP (2009 est.): Services 43% (of which 5.5% for tourism); industry 31.5%; agriculture and fishing 8.9%. Trade (2009): Exports--$14.42 billion: clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment. By region--Europe 76.13%, Africa 13.12%, Asia 4.99%, Americas 2.6%. By country (U.S. $)--France $4.27 billion; Italy $3.03 billion; Germany $1.26 billion; Spain $486.24 million; Libya $830.8 million; U.K. $685.8 million; Belgium $319.15 million; U.S. $196.59 million. Imports--$19.03 billion: textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs. By region--Europe 72.58%, Asia 12.64%, Africa 7.21%, Americas 7.08%. By country (U.S. $)--France $3.83 billion; Italy $3.11 billion; Germany $1.66 billion; Spain $864.67 million; China $954.04 million; Libya $559.01 million; U.S. $761.53 million.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS Tunisia is a republic with a strong presidential system dominated by a single political party. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been in office since 1987, when he deposed Habib Bourguiba, president since Tunisia's independence from France in 1956. The ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), was the sole legal party for 25 years--including when it was known as the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD)--and still dominates political life. The president is elected to 5-year terms--with virtually no opposition--and appoints a prime minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators are also appointed by the central government; largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected. There is a bicameral legislative body. The Chamber of Deputies has 214 seats. The Chamber of Deputies plays a limited role as an arena for debate on national policy but never originates legislation and virtually always passes bills presented by the executive with only minor changes. The Chamber of Advisors (created by referendum in 2002), has 126 seats (85 elected by municipal officials and professional associations; 41 members are presidential appointees.) Members are elected for 6-year terms, with half of the chamber renewed every 3 years. First-time elections for the Chamber of Advisors took place in July 2005; half of these seats were up for re-election in August 2008. The judiciary is nominally independent, but responds to executive direction, especially in politically sensitive cases. The military is professional and does not play a role in politics. Tunisia's independence from France in 1956 ended a protectorate established in 1881. President Bourguiba, who had been the leader of the independence movement, declared Tunisia a republic in 1957, ending the nominal rule of the Ottoman Beys. In June 1959, Tunisia adopted a constitution modeled on the French system, which established the basic outline of the highly centralized presidential system that continues today. The military was given a defined defensive role, which excluded participation in politics. Starting from independence, President Bourguiba placed strong emphasis on economic and social development, especially education, the status of women, and the creation of jobs, policies that continued under the Ben Ali administration. The result was strong social progress--high literacy and school attendance rates, low population growth rates, and relatively low poverty rates--and generally steady economic growth. These pragmatic policies have contributed to social and political stability. Progress toward full democracy has been slow. Over the years, President Bourguiba stood unopposed for re-election several times and was named "President for Life" in 1974 by a constitutional amendment. At the time of independence, the Neo-Destourian Party (later the PSD)--enjoying broad support because of its role at the forefront of the independence movement--became the sole legal party. Opposition parties were banned until 1981. When President Ben Ali came to power in 1987, he promised greater democratic openness and respect for human rights, signing a "national pact" with opposition parties, including the unauthorized Islamic An-Nahdha party. He oversaw constitutional and legal changes, including abolishing the concept of president for life, the establishment of presidential term limits, and provision for greater opposition party participation in political life. But the ruling party, renamed the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), continued to dominate the political scene. The RCD won all seats in the Chamber of Deputies in 1989, and won all of the directly elected seats in the 1994, 1999, and 2004 elections. However, constitutional amendments provided for the distribution of additional seats to the opposition parties by 1999 and 2004. Currently, six opposition parties share 53 of the 214 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Ben Ali ran for re-election unopposed in 1989 and 1994. In the multiparty era, he won 99.44% of the vote in 1999 and 94.49% of the vote in 2004. In both elections he faced weak opponents. A May 2002 referendum approved constitutional changes proposed by Ben Ali that allowed him to run for a fifth term in 2009. Ben Ali won re-election in October 2009 with 89% of the vote (and 89% participation). The referendum also created a second parliamentary chamber, the Chamber of Advisors, and provided for other changes. On July 28, 2008 President Ben Ali approved a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18. There are currently eight legal opposition parties, the Social Democratic Movement (MDS), the Popular Unity Party (PUP), the Union of Democratic Unionists (UDU), At-Tajdid (also called the Renewal Movement), the Liberal Social Party (PSL), and the Green Party for Progress (PVP), plus the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP) and the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (FDTL), the only two not represented in the Chamber of Deputies. The parties are generally weak and divided and face considerable restrictions on their ability to organize. The Islamist opposition party, An-Nahdha, was allowed to operate openly in the late 1980s and early 1990s despite a ban on religiously based parties. The government outlawed An-Nahdha as a terrorist organization in 1991 and arrested its leaders and thousands of party members and sympathizers, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the president. The party is no longer openly active in Tunisia, and its leaders operate from exile in London. Several activists have been denied permission to establish other opposition political parties. While there are thousands of official, established non-governmental organizations, civil society remains weak and divided. The Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), the first human rights organization in Africa and the Arab world, operates under restrictions and suffers from state intrusion. Some independent organizations, such as the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD), the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development, and the Bar Association also are active. The government has denied legal status to a handful of other human rights advocacy groups who, nonetheless, attempt to organize and publicize information on the human rights situation in the country. Despite the Government of Tunisia's stated commitment to making progress toward a democratic system, citizens do not enjoy political freedom. The government imposes restrictions on freedom of association and speech and does not allow a free press. Many critics have called for clearer, effective distinctions between executive, legislative, and judicial powers. Foreign media, including foreign-based satellite television channels, have criticized the Tunisian Government for the lack of press freedom. Tunisia ranked number 154 out of 173 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders list of World Press Freedom rankings, down from 143 in the previous year. As reflected in the State Department's annual human rights report, there are frequent reports of torture and abuse of prisoners, especially political prisoners. Trade unions have played a key role in Tunisia's history since the struggle for independence, when the 1952 assassination of labor leader Farhat Hached was a catalyst for the final push against French domination. The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), the country's sole labor confederation, has generally focused on bread-and-butter issues, but at some critical moments in Tunisia's history has played a decisive role in the nation's political life. Despite a drop in union membership from 400,000 to about 250,000 as the structure of the Tunisian economy changed, the UGTT continues to hold a prominent place in Tunisia's political and social life, and negotiates with government and the umbrella employer group on wages and benefits. The current leadership under Abdessalem Jerad was elected at the 21st UGTT Congress held in December 2006. The Tunisian Journalist Association’s (AJT) membership was suspended by the International Federation of Journalists from 2004-2007 for failing to defend freedom of the press. Seeking to gain some national autonomy and bargaining power with the government, in January 2008 Tunisian journalists created a union, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT). Neji B’ghouri, who billed himself as an independent, was elected its first president but was replaced in 2009 by Jamal Kermaoui following contested elections. In July 2010, a new Syndicate of Tunisian Writers was created to protect writers against perceived marginalization and exploitation and to collectively lobby the government for more benefits for its members. Questions remain as to how effective it will be in changing the political atmosphere. Tunisia is a leader in the Arab world in promoting the legal and social status of women. A Personal Status Code was adopted shortly after independence in 1956, which, among other things, gave women full legal status (allowing them to run and own businesses, have bank accounts, and seek passports under their own authority). It also, for the first time in the Arab world, outlawed polygamy. The government required parents to send girls to school, and today more than 50% of university students are women and 66% of judges and lawyers are women. Rights of women and children were further enhanced by 1993 reforms, which included a provision to allow Tunisian women to transmit citizenship even if they are married to a foreigner and living abroad. The government has supported a remarkably successful family planning program that has reduced the population growth rate to just over 1% per annum, contributing to Tunisia's economic and social stability. Tunisia's judiciary is headed by the Court of Cassation, whose head is appointed by the minister of justice and human rights. The country is divided administratively into 24 governorates. The president appoints all governors.Principal Government OfficialsPresident--Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Prime Minister--Mohamed Ghannouchi Minister of State--Abdelaziz Ben Dhia Minister of Foreign Affairs--Kamel Morjane Minister of National Defense--Ridha Grira Ambassador to the United States--Mohamed Salah TekayaTunisia's embassy in the United States is located at 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005 (tel. 1-202-862-1850, fax 1-202-862-1858).
Type: Republic.Constitution: June 1, 1959; amended July 12, 1988, June 29, 1999, June 1, 2002, May 13, 2003, and July 28, 2008.Independence: March 20, 1956.Branches: Executive--chief of state President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (since November 7, 1987) head of government, Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI (since November 17, 1999) cabinet, Council of Ministers appointed by the president; president elected by popular vote for a 5-year term; election last held October 24, 2004 (next to be held in October 2009); prime minister appointed by the president. Election results: President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali reelected for a fourth term; candidates from opposition: Mohamed Bouchiha (PUP), Mohamed Ali Halouani (At-Tajdid) and Mounir Beji (PSL); percentage of vote--Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 94.49% (officially).Legislative--bicameral. Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (189 seats; 5-year terms; 152 seats are elected by popular vote for party lists on a winner-take-all basis). An additional 37 seats (20% of the total) are distributed to opposition parties on a proportional basis as provided for in 1999 constitutional amendments. Elections last held October 24, 2004 (next to be held in October 2009). Election results: percentage of vote by party--RCD 92%; seats by party--RCD 152, MDS 14, PUP 11, UDU 7, At-Tajdid 3, PSL 2. Note: The opposition increased number of seats from 34 to 37. A referendum in 2002 created a second chamber, the Chamber of Advisors. Elections for the Chamber of Advisors were held in July 2005. Half of these members were up for re-election in August 2008. Some members were to be elected by municipal council members and members of the Chamber of Deputies; others were to be appointed by President Ben Ali. Judicial--Nominally independent District Courts, Courts of Appeal, Highest Court (Cour de Cassation). Judges of all courts are appointed by the minister of justice and human rights.Political parties: Democratic Constitutional Rally (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique--ruling party) or RCD, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; At-Tajdid Movement (Ahmed Brahim); Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL (Mustapha Ben Jaafar); Liberal Social Party or PSL (Mondher Thabet); Movement of Democratic Socialists or MDS (Ismail Boulahia); Popular Unity Party or PUP (Mohamed Bouchiha); Unionist Democratic Union or UDU (Ahmed Inoubli); Progressive Democratic Party or PDP (Maya Jribi); Green Party for Progress or PVP (Mongi Khamassi).Political pressure groups and leaders: Authorized--Tunisian Human Rights League or LTDH (Mokhtar Trifi); Tunisian Association of Democratic Women or ATFD (Sana Ben Achour); Tunisian Bar Association (Adbessatar Ben Moussa); National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists or SNJT (Neji B’ghouri); General Union of Tunisian Students (Ezzedine Zaatour). Unauthorized --An-Nahdha (Renaissance) the Islamic fundamentalist party (Rached El Ghanouchi, in exile); National Council for Liberties in Tunisia or CNLT (Sihem Ben Sedrine); Freedom and Equity (Mohamed Nouri); National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (Abdelkader Ben Khemiss); Movement of 18 October (Nejib Chebbi, Hamma Hammami, et. al) Congress for the Republic or CPR (Moncef Marzouki); Tunisian Communist Labor Party or POCT (Hamma Hammami); Tunisian Green Party or PVT (Abdelkader Zitouni); International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners or AISPP (President: Saida Akremi). Administrative divisions: 24 governorates--Ariana, Beja, Ben Arous, Bizerte, El Kef, Gabes, Gafsa, Jendouba, Kairouan, Kasserine, Kebili, Mahdia, Manouba, Medenine, Monastir, Nabeul, Sfax, Sidi Bou Zid, Siliana, Sousse, Tataouine, Tozeur, Tunis, Zaghouan.Suffrage: Universal at 18. (Active duty members of the military and internal security forces cannot vote.)
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