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After RepressionHow Polarization Derails Democratic Transition$
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Elizabeth R. Nugent

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691203058

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691203058.001.0001

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Repression and Polarization in Tunisia, 1987–2010

Repression and Polarization in Tunisia, 1987–2010

(p.129) 5 Repression and Polarization in Tunisia, 1987–2010
After Repression

Elizabeth R. Nugent

Princeton University Press

This chapter details how widespread repression in Tunisia decreased polarization within the opposition between 1987 and 2010. It demonstrates the effects of widespread repression on Tunisian opposition groups through psychological, social, and organizational mechanisms. Psychologically, a widespread repressive environment made Tunisian opposition members aware that they were not the only targets of harsh state repression. It also altered socialization patterns among opposition groups by imprisoning Islamist and secular opposition members together, and by exiling members of these same groups together abroad, where they exchanged ideas about how to best combat the regime. Finally, widespread repression altered the organizational structures of individual opposition groups by creating cross-group human rights organizations that advocated the freedoms of political prisoners of different ideological persuasions. As experiences of repression became increasingly ubiquitous among the Tunisian opposition over time, members of individual parties more strongly identified with a collective opposition identity and demonstrated more positive feelings towards members of other opposition groups. In addition, two major collaborative initiatives in the early 2000s solidified an agreement among opposition leaders about how religion and politics would be dealt with should authoritarianism end.

Keywords:   widespread repression, Tunisia, polarization, Tunisian opposition groups, human rights organizations, collective opposition identity, opposition leaders, authoritarianism

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