History, Tunisian Resistance to French Rule
Tunisian people, Bourguiba, nationalist leaders, political strength, Tunisians
Anti-French disorders became increasingly violent late in July 1954. On July 31 the French premier Pierre Mendes-France arrived in Tunisia on a mission of conciliation. Mendes-France promised the protectorate full internal autonomy under a government composed of Tunisians. This statement proved acceptable to nationalist leaders, notably Bourguiba, and rioting came to a halt. Lengthy negotiations followed, and on June 3, 1955, the Tunisian premier Tahar ben Ammar and the French premier Edgar Faure signed a series of conventions and protocols that greatly increased the extent of Tunisian self-rule. France retained control of Tunisian foreign policy and defense, however. On September 17 the first all-Tunisian government in 74 years was installed in Tunis. Many nationalists actively opposed the new regime and pressed for an even greater measure of independence from France. Further French concessions were embodied in a historic protocol signed in Paris on March 20, 1956. The agreement in effect abrogated the Bardo Treaty of 1881 and recognized Tunisia as a completely sovereign, constitutional monarchy under the bey of Tunis. The first national legislative elections in Tunisian history, which took place on March 25, resulted in a decisive victory for the Neo-Destour Party. On April 8, Bourguiba was elected president of the first Tunisian National Assembly; on April 11, he was named premier. The assembly adopted a constitution transferring to the Tunisian people the legislative powers hitherto exercised by the bey. On November 12, 1956, Tunisia was admitted to the United Nations (UN).
The political strength of the Neo-Destour Party was demonstrated again when the party polled about 90 percent of the vote in various municipal elections on May 5, 1957. Women voted in those elections for the first time.
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