country profile - TUNISIA
Background: Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in convincing the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. Street protests that began in Tunis in December 2010 over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices escalated in January 2011, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. On 14 January 2011, the same day BEN ALI dismissed the government, he fled the country, and by late January 2011, a "national unity government" was formed. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December, it elected human rights activist Moncef MARZOUKI as interim president. The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012 and, after several iterations and a months-long political crisis that stalled the transition, ratified the document in January 2014. Parliamentary and presidential elections for a permanent government were held at the end of 2014. Beji CAID ESSEBSI was elected as the first president under the country's new constitution.
geography  
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
Area: total: 163,610 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 1,495 km
border countries (2): Algeria 1,034 km, Libya 461 km
Coastline: 1,148 km
Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
people  
Population: 11,037,225 (July 2015 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.03% (male 1,309,910/female 1,232,149)
15-24 years: 15.53% (male 860,967/female 853,502)
25-54 years: 44.58% (male 2,388,056/female 2,532,035)
55-64 years: 8.82% (male 494,054/female 479,469)
65 years and over: 8.04% (male 435,737/female 451,346) (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 31.9 years
male: 31.5 years
female: 32.3 years (2015 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.89% (2015 est.)
Birth rate: 16.64 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate: 5.98 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Net migration rate -1.73 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Nationality: noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Religions: Muslim (official; Sunni) 99.1%, other (includes Christian, Jewish, Shia Muslim, and Baha'i) 1%
Languages: Arabic (official, one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce), Berber (Tamazight)
note: despite having no official status, French plays a major role in the country and is spoken by about two-thirds of the population
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 81.8%
male: 89.6%
female: 74.2% (2015 est.)
government  
Country name: conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
local short form: Tunis
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Tunis
geographic coordinates: 36 48 N, 10 11 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 24 governorates; Ariana (Aryanah), Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Kef (Al Kaf), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Manouba (Manubah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bou Zid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)
Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 20 March (1956); Revolution and Youth Day, 14 January (2011)
Legal system: mixed legal system of civil law, based on the French civil code, and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal except for active government security forces (including the police and the military), people with mental disabilities, people who have served more than three months in prison (criminal cases only), and people given a suspended sentence of more than six months
Executive branch: chief of state: President Beji CAID ESSEBSI (since 31 December 2014)
head of government: Prime Minister Habib ESSID (since 6 February 2015)
cabinet: selected by the prime minister and approved by the Constituent Assembly
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 23 November and 21 December 2014 (next to be held in 2019); following legislative elections, the prime minister is selected by the majority party or majority coalition and appointed by the president
election results: Beji CAID ESSEBSI elected president; percent of vote in runoff - Beji CAID ESSEBSI (Tunisia's Call) 55.7%, Moncef MARZOUKI (CPR) 44.3%
Legislative branch: unicameral Chamber of the People's Deputies (217 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)
elections: initial election held on 26 October 2014 (next to be held in 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - Tunisia's Call 39.6%, al-Nahda 31.8%, UPL 7.4%, Popular Front 6.9%, Afek Tounes 3.7%, CPR 1.8%, other 8.8%; seats by party - Tunisia's Call 86, al-Nahda 69, UPL 16, Popular Front 15, Afek Tounes 8, CPR 4, other 17, independent 2
Judicial branch: highest court(s): Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation (organized into civil and criminal chambers and consists of NA judges)
judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the Higher Magistracy Council (also called the Superior Council of the Judiciary), a 7-member body of judges and prosecutors; judges appointed by presidential decree; judge tenure NA
subordinate courts: Administrative Court; Courts of Appeal; Housing Court; courts of first instance; lower district courts; military courts
Political parties and leaders: Afek Tounes [Emna MINF]
Alliance for Tunisia (a coalition of Tunisia's Call [Beji CAID ESSEBSI], Republican Party [Maya JRIBI and Najib CHBBI], Democratic Path [Ahmed BRAHIM])
al-Nahda (The Renaissance) [Rachid GHANNOUCHI]
Congress for the Republic or CPR [Moncef MARZOUKI]
Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL (Ettakatol) [Mustapha Ben JAAFAR]
Democratic Modernist Pole or PDM (a coalition)
Democratic Socialist Movement or MDS
Et-Tajdid Movement [Ahmed IBRAHIM]
Free Patriotic Union or UPL (Union patriotique libre) [Slim RIAHI]
Green Party for Progress or PVP [Mongi KHAMASSI]
Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mondher THABET]
Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ismail BOULAHYA]
Popular Front (a coalition of 9 parties including Democractic Patriots' Movement, Workers' Party, Green Tunisia, Tunisian Ba'ath Movement, and Party of the Democractic Arab Vanguard)
Popular Petition (Aridha Chaabia) [Hachemi HAMDI]
Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed BOUCHIHA]
Progressive Democratic Party or PDP [Maya JERIBI]
The Initiative [Kamel MORJANE] (formerly the Constitutional Democratic Rally or RCD)
Tunisia's Call (Nidaa Tounes) [Beji CAID ESSEBSI]
Tunisian Workers' Communist Party or PCOT [Hamma HAMMAMI]
Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Ahmed INOUBLI]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
18 October Group [collective leadership]
Tunisian League for Human Rights or LTDH [Mokhtar TRIFI]
Tunisian General Labor Union or UGTT [Hassine ABASSI]
Political pressure groups and leaders: 18 October Group [collective leadership]
Tunisian League for Human Rights or LTDH [Mokhtar TRIFI]
Tunisian General Labor Union or UGTT [Hassine ABASSI]
International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, BSEC (observer), CAEU, CD, EBRD, FAO, G-11, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, MONUSCO, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OIF, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag description: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; resembles the Ottoman flag (red banner with white crescent and star) and recalls Tunisia's history as part of the Ottoman Empire; red represents the blood shed by martyrs in the struggle against oppression, white stands for peace; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam
note: the flag is based on that of Turkey, itself a successor state to the Ottoman Empire
communications  
Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 950,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (2014 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 14.3 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 131 (2014 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; telephone network is completely digitized; Internet access available throughout the country
domestic: in an effort to jumpstart expansion of the fixed-line network, the government has awarded a concession to build and operate a VSAT network with international connectivity; rural areas are served by wireless local loops; competition between the two mobile-cellular service providers has resulted in lower activation and usage charges and a strong surge in subscribership; a third mobile, fixed, and ISP operator was licensed in 2009 and began offering services in 2010; expansion of mobile-cellular services to include multimedia messaging and e-mail and Internet to mobile phone services has also lead to a surge in subscribership; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity has reached about 125 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code - 216; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; 2 international gateway digital switches (2011)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 38, shortwave 2 (2007)
Television broadcast stations: 26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)
Internet country code: .tn
Internet hosts: 406 (2009)
Internet users: 5 million (2014 est.)
transportation  
Airports: 29 (2013)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 15
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 14
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 8 (2013)
Pipelines: condensate 68 km; gas 3,111 km; oil 1,381 km; refined products 453 km (2013)
Railways: total: 2,173 km (1,991 in use)
standard gauge: 471 km 1.435-m gauge
dual gauge: 8 km 1.435-1.000-m gauge
narrow gauge: 1,694 km 1.000-m gauge (65 km electrified) (2014)
Roadways: total: 19,418 km
paved: 14,756 km (includes 357 km of expressways)
unpaved: 4,662 km (2010)
Merchant marine: total: 9
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 2, passenger/cargo 4, roll on/roll off 2 (2010)
Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Bizerte, Gabes, Rades, Sfax, Skhira
transnational issues  
Disputes - international: none
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Tunisia is a source, destination, and possible transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Tunisia’s increased number of street children, children working to support their families, and migrants who have fled unrest in neighboring countries are vulnerable to human trafficking; Tunisian women have been forced into prostitution domestically and elsewhere in the region under false promises of legitimate work; East and West African women may be subjected to forced labor as domestic servants
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Tunisia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; prior commitments to enact draft anti-trafficking legislation have not been fulfilled, but a slightly increased number of trafficking offenders were prosecuted and convicted in 2013 under existing trafficking-related laws; the government instituted victim identification procedures and developed a victim referral mechanism, although it was not utilized during the reporting period; anti-trafficking awareness campaigns continued to be implemented, and the government worked with an international organization to produce a baseline study on human trafficking in Tunisia (2014)
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html