What are the elements that shape the outcome of a country’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy? All too often policy analysts focus on the political process, while neglecting the vital role of economic reform in determining democratic success or failure. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has made significant strides towards developing democratic consensus; however, two years on, the country’s continued struggle with economic stagnation, high unemployment and lack of entrepreneurial opportunities poses serious challenges to its transition.

Mondher Ben Ayed discussed why tackling these economic questions is essential for Tunisia’s future stability and success.

Drawing on his experience in business and civil society in Tunisia, Ben Ayed believes the fundamentals of Tunisia remain secure, which means its economy should recover in the near future. He is optimistic that if the country’s political transition continues on its current path, a timely constitutional consensus occurs and the new government carries through with the necessary economic reforms, Tunisia’s experience can be recognised as an example of a successful political transition.

Ben Ayed's lecture was based on a paper he has authored as part of the Legatum Institute's 'Transitions Lecture Series'. The paper will be available for download shortly.

The conversation was introduced by Legatum Institute President and CEO Jeffrey Gedmin, and moderated by Co-founder and Co-editor of the Journal of Democracy and Co-chair of the International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Research Council at the National Endowment for Democracy, Larry Diamond.

Video Interview with Christian Caryl, Editor of Democracy Lab

Livestream from Transitions Lecture Series discussion

The Tunisia case study is the second lecture in a joint series on 'The Role of Economics in Democratic Transitions' organised by the Legatum Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, and World Affairs that explores the link between economic reform and political transitions. The first lecture was held in January 2013 with former finance minister of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and discussed why tackling economic questions is essential for transitioning countries.

About the Speakers 
Mondher Ben Ayed is President and Chief Operating Officer of TMI, a Tunis based technology firm that has worked with Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Acer to provide services around value-added solutions to telecommunications operators, banks, financial institutions, and government entities. He also has been active in various civil society positions since the mid-1990s, serving as President of the Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce from 2007 to 2009 and as the private-sector coordinator on behalf of the Tunisian Business Association for the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005. He served from 2011 to 2012 as an advisor to the Prime Minister of Tunisia on economic issues and international relations. 

Larry Diamond is Co-founder and Co-editor of the Journal of Democracy and Co-chair of the International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Research Council at the National Endowment for Democracy. He is also Director of Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Jeffrey Gedmin has been President and CEO of the Legatum Institute in London since 2011. From 2007 to 2011 he served as President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Before that he served for five years as Director of the Aspen Institute Berlin.