The Tunisian Republic (الجمهرية التونسية), or Tunisia, is a Muslim Arab country situated on the North African Mediterranean coast. It is the easternmost and smallest of the three nations along the Atlas mountain range, bordering the two others: Algeria to the west and Libya to the south and east. Forty per cent of the country is comprised by the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile land and easily accessible coasts. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the founding of the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, and later, as the Africa Province, it became known as the bread basket of the Roman Empire. It is thought that the name Tunis originated from Berber, meaning either a geographical promontory, or, 'to spend the night.'
Main article: History of Tunisia
Tunisia was the site of Carthage, a state conquered by the Roman Empire, which withdrew in the 5th century. It was conquered by Arab Muslims in the 7th century, and later became part of the Ottoman Empire.
In the 19th century it remained officially Ottoman but increasingly independent. It was made a French protectorate in 1881. It achieved independence in 1956, and has had two presidents since.
Main article: Politics of Tunisia
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 when he deposed Habib Bourguiba, who had been President since Tunisia's independence from France in 1956. The ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), was the sole legal party for 25 years--when it was known as the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD) - and still dominates political life .
The President is elected to 5-year terms - with virtually no opposition - and 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. It plays a growing role as an arena for debate on national policy but never originates legislation and virtually always passes bills presented by the executive with only minor changes.
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. There are currently six legal opposition parties.
Main article: Governorates of Tunisia
Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates.
Main article: Geography of Tunisia
Tunisia is in north Africa, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert and between Algeria and Libya. Much of the land is semi-arid and desert. There are mountains in the north. The climate is temperate in the north, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The desert is in the south.
Main article: Economy of Tunisia
Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Real growth averaged 5.0% in the 1990s, and inflation is slowing. Growth in tourism and increased trade have been key elements in this steady growth. Tunisia's association agreement with the European Union (EU) entered into force on March 1 1998, the first such accord between the EU and Mediterranean countries to be activated. Under the agreement Tunisia will gradually remove barriers to trade with the EU over the next decade. Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, and improvements in government efficiency are among the challenges for the future. In 2008, Tunisia will be a completely associated member of the E.U. (comparable to the status of Norway or Iceland).
Culture of Tunisia
Main article: Culture of Tunisia