Nejib Jeridi, WFD’s Country Representative in Tunisia, was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme. Here’s a transcript of the full interview with presenter Mark Mardell; or listen in to the version broadcast on the programme from around 22 minutes in.
Does the Quartet deserve this prestigious award?
Yes. The effort that they have made and the impact that they have had on the Tunisian transition towards democracy is so big that they deserve it.
What have they actually done? How did they operate?
It was an initiative they took in 2011 – a moment where Tunisia was risking the failure of its process of transition towards democracy. In 2013 had faced a difficult moment. At that time there were difficulties and a crisis of legitimacy in Tunisia. They intervened at the right moment with an initiative to bring all the political actors together and to try to find a consensus solution – and they have succeeded to do so.
So they stepped in at a critical moment and they represent lawyers, big business, union?
It [the Quartet] is made by the four most influential and legitimate civil society organisations in Tunisia and they just stepped in to help legitimate institutions to find a solution for the problems.
So they stepped in at a critical moment. How did they do that? What did they do – bang people’s heads together, or what?
The initiative was to invite the key political parties – those who are represented at that moment in the constituent assembly; those who were not represented but still influential in the Tunisian political scene; then, in addition to themselves the four civil society organisations; and to come together and sit on a roundtable and try to reach a consensus in an informal way.
And how is the state of Tunisian democracy at the moment?
At the moment huge steps have been taken. The constitution has been adopted with a vast majority of 200 out of 216 MPs. Three elections – the two rounds of presidential elections and the legislative election has been done fairly and successfully and the establishment of a new parliament, the election of a president for the republic and new government which is now making the rest of the steps that have to be done in order to make the transition towards democracy succeed.
And are the Quartet still active?
Not as they were before the adoption of the constitution, but they are still there. They meet for time to time to find solutions for some problems and to try to support the achievement of consensus and I think they still have a role to play in Tunisia.
How are people reacting to the news in Tunisia?
I’m in London currently, I’m not in Tunisia to know how people are really reacting. I guess people will be happy with this – they will see this as a recognition of the efforts that have been done, for the peaceful transition, and for the Tunisian model of reaching consensus. We have avoided bringing problems to the streets.
What were the problems? It was quite a violent time.
Actually in 2013, Tunisia has lived through some very difficult moments. At that time we had two political assassinations. There was a dispute over the legitimacy of the constituent assembly and the government in place at that moment – a constitutional misunderstanding about the legitimacy of the constituent assembly. There were some people that were afraid that what happened in Egypt at that time would be duplicated in Tunisia and at that’s why I said in the beginning that the Quartet stepped in at the right moment to prevent that to happen and to keep the solution political.
When we look across at what was known as the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the one place where it seems to have worked out well.
And I think this is what justified this Nobel prize award – I mean part of the credit for this peaceful transition comes back to the Quartet in addition of course to the other political actors. But the Quartet also has the merit of bringing these two political parties together and helping them to reach a consensus.
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