The area called Tunisia today has been dominated by a series of invasions over the centuries, including the Ottoman Turks in 1574, Italian merchants and then the French between 1881 and 1956.
It was in 1956 that a long standing independence movement got its way and an independent Tunisia born. Its full title is al-Jumhūriyyah at-Tūnisiyyah but more normally known as the Tunisian Republic.
A leading figure in the independence movement, Habib Bourguiba became the first president of the new country. He and his Neo Destour Party lasted until 7th November 1987 when the then prime minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali deposed him in a coup, supposedly on medical grounds.
Ben Ali and his party, renamed the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) in 1988, then continued to rule Tunisia with minimal opposition allowed, until 14th January 2011.
The events leading up to Ben Ali’s departure started with the self-immolation of a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi on 4th January 2011. It was his death that led to the protests which in turn brought down the regime and started the so called ‘Arab Spring’.
Following the revolution an interim government was established and it was this which announced that a Constituent Assembly of 217 members would be elected on 23rd October.
The Constituent Assembly will have the power to write a new constitution and it will also be able to appoint a new government or empower the current interim government to continue its work.
Prior to the revolution, there was a President who was elected for a five year term with no term limits. There was also a bicameral parliament with a Chamber of Advisors with 126 seats of which 85 members were elected by municipal councillors, deputies, mayors, professional associations and trade unions. 41 members were presidential appointees and members served six-year terms. The Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab had 214 members elected by popular vote to serve five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Tunisia at joint 75th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 41 (where 100 is least corrupt).