Post-Arab Spring Tunisia: local government in Indonesia, a start-up democracy, and the youth

Greg Barton, Alfred Deakin Institute
Indonesian democratic transition: an examination of the vital elements
Barton argues that we can now call Tunisia a successful democratic transition, as elections have been  held with limited violence and instability. There are important parallels with Indonesia, which is democratic (although not without its problems), well-educated and literate, well-connected, globalised, and with a demographic youth bulge. Both countries also have a significant Muslim population, and Islamic movements have made important contributions to civil society.

There’s a tendency, particularly in the West, to overlook religious participation in civil society. In Indonesia, progressive Muslim movements played a key role not only in the resistance to colonialism and formation of alternative institutions, but also in developing opposition to Suharto. Progressive Islamic thought was supported in Reformasi throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Islam became a positive factor: progressive Islamic thought lays a foundation for democratic thinking and social activism.

Civil society, including religious movements, will continue to play a role in Indonesia’s democracy. One key area here is local elections: these are, in many ways, the most relevant to voters, as they are seen to have the greatest impact on their lives. However, challenges continue in this area. Among other issues, only 7% of candidates in the last Indonesian local elections were women.

Innes Ben Youssef, Free Patriots
Tunisian Revolution: a story of start-up democracy
Tunisia is seen as the only success story of the Arab Spring, and there have been many advances, including the successful implementation of a technocratic government to guide the process of forming the constitution.

To ensure democratic transition, it is important to shine a light on decentralisation and local democracy, and focus on the significant role of civil society, especially women and the youth. In order to do that, we need to re-evaluate the role of the state, strengthen local governments, improve the capacities of municipalities, and improve citizen’s participation in local decision-making.

Ghazoua Ltaief, Sawty
Promoting the Inclusion of Youth in Democratic Transitions


Tunisia is a success, a glimmer of hope as it undergoes a continuous transition process, but it still faces challenges. The constitution has set a new path for Tunisia, and the shift to more decentralised government is key to that. There are still many challenges for youth involvement, and many youth feel disappointed in, and disconnected from, politicians.

Sawty is an important part of the democratic process, working in the regions as well a in Tunisia. One of their programs: “Raise Your Voice”, is aimed at increasing youth participation in local government. Through this program, Sawty is working with youth to articulate their problems, and connecting youth with politicians and other decision-makers to try to develop these solutions.

Sawty is also working with broader networks, including the netmed youth network. This project is helping countries in the Mediterranean to develop youth policies in consultation with the youth. Bus Citoyen, another Sawty program, is a bus that travels around regions in Tunisia working on voter education, including why to, and how to, vote.

Ltaief says that despite the challenges, they are still optimistic (because they need to be).

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