Al-Jumhūriyyah at-Tūnisiyyah

Tunisian Republic

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Anthem: Himat Al Hima
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Capital: Tunis
Official Language: Arabic and French
Demonym: Tunisian
Government: One-Party Dictatorship
Leader: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Formation: March 20, 1956
Area: 163,610 km2
Population: 8,095,492 (July 1990), growth rate 2.2% (1990)
Currency: Tunisian dinar
Timezone: CET

Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic, is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. It is the northernmost African country and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil, and a 1300 km coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, and later, as the Africa Province, which became known as the bread basket of the Roman Empire.

Important InformationsEdit

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, the year he deposed Habib Bourguiba in a bloodless coup. The constitution has been changed twice to allow Ben Ali to remain in power: initially from two to three terms, then from three to five. The ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), was the sole legal party for 25 years, known previously as the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD). The RCD still dominates political life.

Facing virtually no opposition, the President is elected to 5-year terms. He appoints a Prime Minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators also are appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected. There is a unicameral legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies, which has 182 seats, 20% of which are reserved for the opposition parties. It plays a growing role as an arena for debate on national policy but never originates legislation. The Chamber virtually always passes bills presented by the executive with only one minor change. The judiciary is nominally independent but responds to executive direction, especially in political cases. The military is professional and does not play a role in politics.

Tunisia is also one of the few Muslim countries, that prohibits the hijab in government buildings. By government edict, women that insist on wearing the hijab must quit their job. Dissenters are forced to sign a document admitting to having committed a crime punishable by law and, in cases of recidivism, are jailed. Women who insist on keeping their veils despite all threats become the subject of negative propaganda disseminated by the Tunisian authorities on all state and private media.


Total area: 163,610 km2; land area: 155,360 km2

Comparative area: slightly larger than Georgia

Land boundaries: 1,424 km total; Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km

Coastline: 1,148 km

Maritime claims:

Territorial sea: 12 nm

Disputes: maritime boundary dispute with Libya

Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south

Terrain: mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara

Natural resources: crude oil, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt

Land use: 20% arable land; 10% permanent crops; 19% meadows and pastures; 4% forest and woodland; 47% other; includes 1% irrigated

Environment: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Note: strategic location in central Mediterranean; only 144 km from Italy across the Strait of Sicily; borders Libya on east


Population: 8,095,492 (July 1990), growth rate 2.2% (1990)

Birth rate: 28 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 6 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 40 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 68 years male, 70 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 4.0 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun--Tunisian(s); adjective--Tunisian

Ethnic divisions: 98% Arab, 1% European, less than 1% Jewish

Religion: 98% Muslim, 1% Christian, less than 1% Jewish

Language: Arabic (official); Arabic and French (commerce)

Literacy: 62% (est.)

Labor force: 2,250,000; 32% agriculture; shortage of skilled labor

Organized labor: about 360,000 members claimed, roughly 20% of labor force; General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), quasi-independent of Constitutional Democratic Party


Long-form name: Tunisian Republic

Type: republic

Capital: Tunis

Administrative divisions: 23 governorates (wilayat, singular--wilayah); Al Kaf, Al Mahdiyah, Al Munastir, Al Qasrayn, Al Qayrawan, Aryanah, Bajah, Banzart, Bin Arus, Jundubah, Madanin, Nabul, Qabis, Qafsah, Qibili, Safaqis, Sidi Bu Zayd, Silyanah, Susah, Tatawin, Tawzar, Tunis, Zaghwan

Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)

Constitution: 1 June 1959

Legal system: based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

National holiday: National Day, 20 March (1956)

Executive branch: president, prime minister, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale)

Judicial branch: Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation)

Leaders: Chief of State--President Gen. Zine el Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987);

Head of Government--Prime Minister Hamed KAROUI (since 26 September 1989)

Political parties and leaders: Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (RCD), President Ben Ali (official ruling party); Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS), Ahmed Mestiri; five other political parties are legal, including the Communist Party

Suffrage: universal at age 20

Communists: a small number of nominal Communists, mostly students

Flag: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam


Overview: The economy depends primarily on petroleum, phosphates, and tourism for continued growth. Two successive drought-induced crop failures have strained the government's budget and increased unemployment. The current account fell from a $23 million surplus in 1988 to a $390 million deficit in 1989. Despite its foreign payments problems, Tunis appears committed to its IMF-supported structural adjustment program. Nonetheless, the government may have to slow its implementation to head off labor unrest. The increasing foreign debt--$7.6 billion at yearend 1989--is also a key problem. Tunis probably will seek debt relief in 1990.

GDP: $8.7 billion, per capita $1,105; real growth rate 3.1% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 10% (1989)

Unemployment rate: 25% (1989)

Budget: revenues $2.9 billion; expenditures $3.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $0.8 billion (1989 est.)

External debt: $7.6 billion (December 1989)

Industrial production: growth rate 3.5% (1988)

Electricity: 1,493,000 kW capacity; 4,210 million kWh produced, 530 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), textiles, footwear, food, beverages

Agriculture: accounts for 16% of GDP and one-third of labor force; output subject to severe fluctuations because of frequent droughts; export crops--olives, dates, oranges, almonds; other products--grain, sugar beets, wine grapes, poultry, beef, dairy; not self-sufficient in food; fish catch of 99,200 metric tons (1986)

Currency: Tunisian dinar (plural--dinars); 1 Tunisian dinar (TD) = 1,000 millimes


Railroads: 2,154 km total; 465 km 1.435-meter standard gauge; 1,689 km 1.000-meter gauge

Highways: 17,700 km total; 9,100 km bituminous; 8,600 km improved and unimproved earth

Pipelines: 797 km crude oil; 86 km refined products; 742 km natural gas

Ports: Bizerte, Gabes, Sfax, Sousse, Tunis, La Goulette, Zarzis

Merchant marine: 21 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 160,172 GRT/218,970 DWT; includes 1 short-sea passenger, 4 cargo, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 2 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 6 chemical tanker, 1 liquefied gas, 5 bulk

Civil air: 13 major transport aircraft

Airports: 30 total, 28 usable; 13 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 7 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 7 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: the system is above the African average; facilities consist of open-wire lines, multiconductor cable, and radio relay; key centers are Safaqis, Susah, Bizerte, and Tunis; 233,000 telephones; stations--18 AM, 4 FM, 14 TV; 4 submarine cables; satellite earth stations--1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT and 1 ARABSAT with back-up control station; coaxial cable to Algeria; radio relay to Algeria, Libya, and Italy


Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 1,997,197; 1,149,141 fit for military service; 88,368 reach military age (20) annually

Defense expenditures: 2.7% of GDP, or $235 million (1989 est.)