The political consensus in place since the late-2014 parliamentary and presidential elections has stabilised Tunisian politics but is beginning to reach its limits. Despite the formation of a national unity government comprising the main political parties, the country suffers from a growing sense of socio-regional exclusion and weakening state authority, which are nurtured by spreading corruption and clientelism. Continuing the democratic transition and achieving economic recovery will require this consensus to be deepened beyond current arrangements between political and union leaders. A new audacious and innovative approach would include influential business personalities, in particular those from marginalised regions whose power in political and social life is hidden but growing.
In the context of macroeconomic instability, the business community is showing increasing signs of polarisation, not just among business leaders but also between them and barons of the parallel economy, especially smuggling. On one side, an established economic elite from the Sahel (the eastern coastal region) and large urban centres is protected by and benefits from existing regulations, a situation it intends to maintain. On the other, some among a new class of entrepreneurs from marginalised regions, who are partly confined to informal trade, are backing violent protests against central authorities and aspires to carve a place among – if not eventually replace – the established elite.