Tunisia’s first-ever municipal elections, scheduled for May 6, are an important milestone in the quest to implement democratic institutions and give locals more agency in making decisions about their needs—two goals that, unsurprisingly, run counter to the vision, interests, and ideology of Salafi-jihadist groups in the region. The Islamic State (IS) has signaled that it hopes to disrupt the vote, focusing official propaganda on Tunisia for the first time since summer 2016.
Over the past two years, the group’s activity in Tunisia has been significantly constrained, but low-profile attacks have continued in the interior governorate of Kasserine. The elections represent a high-stakes opportunity to encourage and empower residents of this forgotten area, so the government would be wise to focus on securing not only higher-profile targets in the capital and coastal regions, but also polling sites in the interior. Such efforts could further legitimize the democratic process, showing skeptical locals that the central authorities are slowly but steadily reaching out to them on governance and other issues.
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