Political participation, Democracy and Internet: Tunisian Revolution

What can we learn from recent uprising movements in Tunisia for the relation between democracy and political participation?

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2011 11 Pages

Politics - Political Systems - General and Comparisons



During the last century democracy expanded to all continents. Within Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe many non-democratic regimes failed, and the world experienced the end of dualism between western democracy and communism. Behind each falling of authoritarian rule there has been political participation in one or another way: strikes, civil opposition, demonstrations, illegal parties or alternative press. Alan Ware once wrote that dictatorship never silenced and stopped completely the political participation of the civil dissidents[1].

However, this journey has not been easy. There have been for example fascists governments in Spain, Germany, Italy and Japan[2]. While Africa lived with colonialism during the first half of the 20th century. Asia had a similar story to Africa experiencing Japan's expansionism and many wars among the continent. Finally, Europe was the principal arena where the fight between communism, democracy and authoritarianism took place. The end of the Second World War and the final collapse of the Cold War brought new democracies and a clear winner: western democracy. Obviously, yet there are communist countries in the world, like Cuba and the North Popular Republic of Korea, and other authoritarian countries, but we may conclude that earlier or before these regimes have an expiration date.

The difference with the last decades is that we can finally say democracy is the only way to the future, there are no other real alternatives [3] . In fact, only Saudi Arabia, Vatican City, Burma and Brunei do not mention officially in their constitutions to be a democracy. Why? Because democracy is “the better political system that we know until now to make commons decisions”[4] and more importantly, “participation and democracy are two inseparables values”[5]. The change of political participation brought along through Internet brings to the world maybe on new important way to political participate. The current incidents in North Africa and Muslims countries show a good sign of the power of Internet to mobilize and give voice to the society. It may give us a hint on how different ways of political participation of citizens bring along the opportunity to build a new democratic system. As it has happened before in the past: political participation brought democracy to the United States, England and France.

Hence, my research question will be focused on the relation of the concepts of democracy and political participation. I will further explicitly discuss: What can we learn from recent uprising movements in Tunisia for the relation between democracy and political participation? The main objective of my paper is to first define the two concepts of democracy and political participation to further analyze the relation between these two concepts and finally, use my interim conclusion to understand uprising movements in Tunisia and to state my final conclusion taking into account recent changes in political participation.

Democracy and Political Participation

Before we can start to analyze in-depth, we have to define the concepts of democracy and political participation. Later on I will explain the relation between these two concepts and how actually this relation is visible through recent events in Tunisia.

Democracy and political participation are both hard to define. In first place, democracy has its origin in the Greek words demos and kratia which mean more or less the power of the people. The first democracy was the polis of Athens, a city-state in the old Greece, but only with the English (1642-1651), American (1787) and French (1789) bourgeois revolution, democracy had a positive consideration and was slowly extended by the world. For example, in 1900 only six countries of forty-three were more or less, democracies. In 1990, sixty-five of almost two hundred countries (see Dahl 2000: 8).

With democracy, we talk about a political system where the governors are elected by citizens with equal vote regardless sex, race, religion, ethnicity or anything that could divide people. There are besides equality before the law and many rights like freedom of the press, religion, speech, association..etc guaranteed by a Constitution or some similar texts like United Kingdom (Chavarri 2002). Obviously we must add some basic elements like the separation of powers (perhaps in United Kingdom is better named balance of powers (Touchard 1996), an elected Parliament, Good Governance, respect for Human Rights and multipartidism system (not only one political party) among others.


[1] Ware, Alan,” Political Parties and Party Systems”, Oxford University Press, 1996.

[2] Linz, Juan J, “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes”, Rienner. 2000.

[3] see Fukuyama, Francis, “The End of History and the Last Man”, 1989.

[4] G. F. Gaus, C. Kukathas, “Handbook ofPolitical Theory”, SAGE, 2004, p. 143-145, AND“The Judge in a Democracy”, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 26.

[5] “La participación ciudadana: reflexiones y propuestad”, Grup d'Aprofundiment Democratic. Mesa Cívica pels Drets Socials (2000)


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Humboldt-University of Berlin
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Title: Political participation, Democracy and Internet: Tunisian Revolution