This fall, the Arab world’s only democracy will hold its second free and fair general elections since the end of the Ben Ali regime in 2011. This fall, Tunisia will also make history and become the first Arab country to hold a comprehensive national electoral debates program. Welcome to Tunisia Decides 2019.
Free and fair elections are the
backbone of democracy. But only democratic debate can breathe life into it.
It is often said that free and fair elections are the backbone of democracy. But it is only engaging, vibrant, and informative public debate that can breathe life into it. Particularly in the run-up to elections, democracies depend on a robust electoral campaigning process that informs citizens of their options, makes candidates accountable to the people, and enables constructive exchanges among politicians vying for votes. No other democratic institution can fulfil this need the way election debates do: When candidates appear on the same stage, presenting their competing visions for the country, citizens have a unique opportunity to decide which platform best represents their own views.
Tunisia will join dozens of nations around the world who have implemented election debates.
From Argentina to Australia, from Mexico to Mongolia, from France to Fiji, dozens of countries around the world have successfully implemented election debates during the last decades. In 2019, Tunisia will become the first Arab nation to join them. But Tunisia Decides will not replicate or emulate models that worked in other countries. We have designed a comprehensive program that ensures the integrity of Tunisia’s electoral discourse, directly engages average citizens in the process, and ultimately serves solely the interests of the Tunisian voter.
Putting the Tunisian voter first.
Tunisia Decides 2019 will build on a seven-year capital of trust the Munathara Initiative has built as a neutral arbiter for vibrant, constructive, and inclusive debate in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world. The planned election debates in 2019, just like all previous Munathara programs, will be editorially independent. And when we say independent, we mean truly independent: Candidates, political parties, or donors will have no say whatsoever over the content and questions of the programs. We are building a broad coalition of partners in Tunisia who share our values and are unwavering in their commitment to democratic debate.
Ahead of the live TV programs, we are asking all Tunisians to join us in actively shaping the election debates. Anyone in the country can upload a video of up to 99 seconds to this website using the hashtag, #YouWillEarnMyVoteOnlyIf… (...ما_نعطيك_صوتي_كان#), naming the one priority issue they want politicians to address in the live debates and explaining why it matters most to them. Upon closing the platform, we will publish statistics of the most frequently-mentioned issues and use them as a guideline to plan the televised debates.
Making candidates accountable to Tunisian voters.
The first Tunisia Decides live debates will be held in early September 2019 with the top contenders for Tunisia’s highest office, ahead of the first round of presidential elections on 15 September. Should the first round of presidential elections trigger a run-off, Munathara will organize another presidential debate between the two finalists just ahead of the 29 September run-off. Later in September, we will hold two parliamentary debates. And finally, in early 2020, Tunisia Decides will conclude with a special program approximately three months after the elections, to hold candidates accountable to the promises made during the Tunisia Decides 2019 broadcasts.
Let Tunisia make history
Finally, there is one more way Tunisia will make history this year. We aim to make all TV programs of the Tunisia Decides 2019 series freely available to any television and radio channel that shares our values of promoting constructive and informative debate. Munathara will distribute satellite space to make the Tunisia Decides feed available – live, and simultaneously - to all its partners. Think of this approach as national interest programming. These debates are too important to be in the hands of a single television station, so we are offering them freely to all Tunisian and Arab media for broadcasting.
With Tunisia Decides, Tunisia could create a moment that will be engraved in the cultural memory of its citizens. Let Tunisia make
history, once more.
Tunisia Decides will be implemented by the Munathara Initiative, a non-profit founded in Tunisia shortly after the country’s revolution. Since its humble beginnings in Tunis in 2012, with the TV program, “Is Tunisia on the Right Path?, the Initiative has come a long way: Munathara created the region’s first online debate platform, trained more than 10,000 youth in debate skills over the years, and produces the only civil society-run talk show on all of Arabic television. Now the largest debate organization in the Arab world, Munathara operates in 11 countries of the region and maintains its headquarters in Tunis.