Tunisia was once an important player in the Mediterranean, thanks to its location in the center of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes.
French colonial rule ended in 1956, and Tunisia was led for three decades by Habib Bourguiba, who advanced secular ideas, foremost of which was the emancipation of women.
Mass protests unseated President Ben Ali in 2011, in the first of a series of popular uprisings to sweep the region, but President Kais Saied sought to re-impose aspects of authoritarian rule in 2022.
President: Kais Saied
Retired law professor Kais Saied won a landslide victory over media mogul Nabil Karoui in the October 2019 presidential election run-off. Saied, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, and appealed directly to young voters.
In 2021 he carried out a series of measures to enhance the power of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the judiciary.
Opposition parties boycotted the 2022 parliamentary elections, accusing the president of staging a coup after shutting down parliament in 2021 and giving himself almost unlimited executive powers.
The Tunisian media now enjoy greater freedom than before the 2011 popular revolt.
Social media played a key role in the uprising.
Some key dates in Tunisia’s modern history:
1881 – French troops occupy Tunis, ousting Ottoman forces.
1956 – Tunisia becomes independent with Habib Bourguiba as prime minister.
1987 – Bourguiba declared unfit to rule and Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed the presidency
2011 – Tunisian revolution. Mass protests drive President Ben Ali into exile, inspiring other Arab Spring uprisings.
2015 – Attacks aimed at foreign tourists killing 22 people at the Bardo National Museum, and later 38 people at the Sousse beachfront.
2021 – President Kais Saied imposes presidential rule, undermining the authority of parliament.