Modelling for a Living: Two-level Games and Rhetorical Action in the Foreign Debt Negotiations of Post-revolutionary Tunisia
The Journal of North African Studies
Taylor & Francis
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 21 September 2019 in compliance with publisher policy.
This article discusses the global-level financial constraints that shape Tunisia’s foreign policy, this debtor state’s international agency and the way its post-2011 authorities have managed/negotiated the issue of foreign debt both internally and internationally, including the ‘odious debt’ inherited from the Ben Ali dictatorship and the renewed borrowing necessities of the country. Viewed against the backdrop of the geopolitical and economic vulnerability that has driven Tunisian foreign policy throughout history, foreign debt is shown to have featured as a highly politicised issue in the domestic sphere in 2011-2012, until the February 2013 crisis enabled an increasingly technocratic government to halt the parliamentary bill calling for a debt audit and to break the taboo on new borrowing from the IMF. On the external front, a distinction is drawn between an adaptive/compliant and a resistant type of foreign policy agency, which can be observed in the international action and rhetoric on this matter deployed by Essebsi and Marzouki respectively. Adaptive/compliant foreign policy agency is technocratic and de-politicising in nature, as it attempts to isolate or blackbox domestic politics when negotiating Tunisian foreign debt abroad – while paradoxically exploiting an ideal representation of Tunisia’s democratic transition (role modelling) in order to demand greater international financial support. Resistant foreign policy agency is more openly political inasmuch as its builds on post-revolutionary domestic politics and contestation. Although the latter approach bore some material fruit in the form of debt conversion measures by the country’s major bilateral creditors, adaptive/compliant foreign policy agency prevailed from 2013 onwards.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Published online 21 March 2018.