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Neo Destour

New Constitutional Liberal Party

حزب الحر الدستوري الجديد
French nameNouveau Parti libéral constitutionnel
Former presidentsMahmud Materi (1934–1938)
Habib Bourguiba (1938–1964)
Founded2 March 1934 (1934-03-02)
Ksar Hellal Congress
Dissolved22 October 1964 (1964-10-22)
Split fromDestour
Succeeded bySocialist Destourian Party
NewspaperL'Action Tunisienne
IdeologyTunisian nationalism
Liberal democracy

The New Constitutional Liberal Party (Arabic: الحزب الحر الدستوري الجديد‎, al-Ḥizb al-Ḥurr ad-Dustūrī al-Jadīd; French: Nouveau Parti libéral constitutionnel), most commonly known as Neo Destour, was a Tunisian political party that was founded by a group of Tunisian nationalist politicians during the French protectorate.


The party was formed as a result of a split from the pre-existing Destour party in 1934, during the Ksar Hellal Congress of March 2.[1][2] Several leaders were particularly prominent during the party's early years before World War II: Habib Bourguiba, Mahmud Materi, Tahar Sfar, Bahri Guiga, and Salah ben Youssef.[3][4]

Prior to the split, a younger group of Destour members had alarmed the party elders by appealing directly to the populace through their more radical newspaper L'Action Tunisienne. The younger group, many from the provinces, seemed more in tune with a wider spectrum of the country-wide Tunisian people, while the party elders represented a more established constituency in the capital city of Tunis; yet both groups were proponents of change, either autonomy or independence. The rupture came at the Destour party congress of 1934.[5][6]

Eventually the Neo Destour led the Tunisian independence movement after the tumultuous period during World War II. Then Bourguiba was imprisoned and after the war in Egypt, while Ben Salih was the local, hands-on party leader. A significant break within the party ranks occurred in the final year of the independence struggle. In April, 1955, Salah ben Yusuf openly challenged Habib Bourguiba over his gradualist tactics during his autonomy negotiations with the French. Also Ben Yusuf, who cultivated support at al-Zaytuna Mosque and took a pan-Arab political line, disputed Bourguiba's more liberal, secular, pro-Western approach. The party's labor leader Ahmad Ben Salah kept the Tunisian General Labor Union in Bourguiba's camp. The Neo Destour party expelled Ben Yusuf that October; in November 1955 he mounted a large street demonstration but to no avail. Ben Yusuf then left for Nasser's Egypt where he was welcomed.[7][8]

Independence of Tunisia from France was negotiated largely by the Neo Destour's Bourguiba. The effective date was March 20, 1956. The next year the Republic of Tunisia was constituted, which replaced the Beylical form of government. The Neo Destour became the ruling party under Prime Minister and later President Habib Bourguiba.[9] In 1963, the Neo Destour was proclaimed the only legally permitted party in Tunisia, though for all intents and purposes the country had been a one-party state since independence.

Later the Neo Destour party was renamed the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD in its French acronym) in 1964, to signal the government's commitment to a socialist phase of political-economic development. This phase failed to fulfill expectations, however, and was discontinued in 1969 with the dismissal of Ahmad ben Salah as economics minister by President Bourguiba.[10][11][12]

In 1988, under President Ben Ali, the party was again renamed, to become the Rassemblement Constitutionel Démocratique (RCD).[13] The RCD continued as the Tunisian ruling party under President Ben Ali, who became increasingly corrupt and dictatorial. Early in 2011 he was forced out of office and his regime and the ruling party abolished, as a result of the liberal Tunisian Revolution. Similar subsequent events of popular regime change, which had spread to other Arab countries, became known as the Arab Spring.[14]

Electoral history

Presidential elections

Election Party candidate Votes % Result
1959 Habib Bourguiba 100% Elected Green tickY

Chamber of Deputies elections

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position
1956 Habib Bourguiba 597,763 98.7%
98 / 98
Increase 98 Increase 1st
1959 1,002,298 99.7%
90 / 90
Decrease 8 Steady 1st

Notable people

See also

Reference notes

  1. ^ The Destour Party had been founded in 1920. Kenneth J. Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004) p. 79.
  2. ^ Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (Princeton University 1986) pp. 162-167, 171.
  3. ^ Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004) pp. 95-96, 98.
  4. ^ Robert Rinehart, "Historical Setting" at 42, in Tunisia. A Country Study edited by Harold D. Nelson (Washington, D.C. 1987).
  5. ^ Richard M. Brace, Morocco Algeria Tunisia (Prentice Hall 1964) pp. 62-63.
  6. ^ Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (Princeton University 1986) pp. 163, 167.
  7. ^ Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004) pp. 116-118, 126-129.
  8. ^ Jacob Abadi, Tunisia since the Arab Conquest (Reading: Uthaca Press 2013) pp. 430-431, 451-453 (Ben Salah)
  9. ^ Brace, Morocco Algeria Tunisia (Prentice Hall 1964) pp. 114-116, 121-123, 140-143.
  10. ^ Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004) at 146-147.
  11. ^ Jean R. Tartter, "Government and Politics" at 234-238, in Tunisia. A Country Study (Washington, D. C. 1987).
  12. ^ Abadi, Tunisia since the Arab Conquest (Ithaca 2013) pp. 139-141.
  13. ^ Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004) p.185.
  14. ^ Abadi, Tunisia since the Arab Conquest (Ithaca 2013) pp. 544-545.