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Door-to-Door in Tunisia

Imagine answering a knock on your door on a Saturday months before campaign season is supposed to start and finding a man who introduces himself as the leader of a rising political party and asks to speak with you about the issues you consider to be most important for the country.  Now imagine that you are a resident of a small coastal province in Tunisia, usually ignored by the politicians for whom you might have voted three years ago but who have not done much for you since.

This was the experience of some Tunisians this past weekend who encountered Yassine Brahim, the leader of Tunisian political party Afek Tounes and a prominent member of the National Constituent Assembly, while he accompanied the Bizerte regional branch members of his party on their door-to-door outreach activities.  Their mission: to collect voter information, learn about the top issues facing the region and introduce voters to the party’s message and ideas. 

According to recent public opinion research, 70 percent of Tunisians do not think politicians in the capital care enough about local problems in the rest of the country, and 83 percent think that political parties do little or nothing to address their needs.  With elections approaching at the end of the year, it is incumbent upon parties to use this time to remind citizens that they are there to represent them in government.  Parties that treat outreach and interaction with voters as a daily party function instead of an activity limited to campaign season will find greater success in elections and eventually reverse the negative perception of the political elite. 

Through a grant funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative of the U.S. Department of State, the International Republican Institute (IRI) helps Tunisian political parties develop, mobilize and represent their constituencies.  IRI in Tunisia specializes in regional branch trainings as a means to develop the presence of political parties at the subnational level, encourage parties to solicit input from local constituents and serve as their voice.  Just three weeks before their door-to-door campaign, the Afek Tounes Bizerte branch members had learned and practiced this technique in a workshop with IRI’s resident country director.

Afek Tounes and other Tunisian parties have worked with IRI on a number of other topics designed to strengthen their institutional capacity, internal and external communication, in-house training ability and understanding and use of poll data.  With these efforts, IRI encourages parties to focus on delivering clear and unified policy solutions in their messages, address the concerns and represent the interests of Tunisians and transmit skills and lessons learned throughout the party.  Representative parties armed with substantial policy solutions and consistent messages can help forge a capable and lasting democracy in Tunisia by channeling the desires of Tunisians into government and societal action.