Civil Society Advocacy for Decentralization and Youth Participation in Local Elections Through Facebook: The Tunisian Case
Abstract: This masters thesis discusses Tunisian civil society’s advocacy for decentralization and local elections throughout 2018 on Facebook, while considering age and gender dynamics. Existing studies provide an overview of the decentralization reform process in Tunisia and other countries in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region. This research sheds new light on these issues by addressing decentralization from a Communication for Development (C4D) perspective. The subject of this masters thesis is situated in a threefold context: First, in the context of broader debates on the evolution of decentralization approaches in the decentralization field, second, in the Tunisian context of the decentralization reform process, and finally, in the context of youth participation in public debate and elections in Tunisia. The case study focuses on Mourakiboun (The Observers), considered among the most active Civil society organizations advocating for decentralization and local elections. This research draws on existing research related to social media as a public sphere, social media for development, as well as the concepts of advocacy and civic engagement. This paper analyses Mourakiboun’s advocacy for decentralization and local elections throughout 2018 based on quantitative content analysis of its Facebook page statistics, with a focus on five specific periods. Qualitative surveys for Facebook users, as well as in-depth interviews with Mourakiboun’s representatives, complement the first research method by understanding opinion on this advocacy from involved stakeholders. The main findings of this paper show a gap between active interaction of Facebook users on Mourakiboun’s page, especially 18-34 years old, on Facebook posts related to decentralization and local elections and their participation on May 6th, 2018 local elections. They also show a weak interest of 13-17-year-olds in posts related to decentralization and local elections, and that male users are more engaged with the page than their female counterparts. Additionally, the analysis of Facebook stats highlights the active engagement of users with posts promoting Mourakiboun’s smartphone Apps. Finally, the research findings are also detailed for each of the five periods.
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