Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi dies at 92 | Jordan News | Ammon News

Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi dies at 92

[7/25/2019 6:33:23 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Tunisia's President Beni Caid Essebsi, the North African country's first democratically elected leader, has died at the age of 92, according to the presidency.

One of the world's oldest leaders, Essebsi died at the Tunis military hospital on Thursday.

He was hospitalised with a severe illness in late June, but returned to intensive care on Thursday, his son said. Earlier, Hafedh Caid Essebsi told AFP news agency that "things are not going well".

Drafted in as prime minister in 2011 after longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled, Essebsi was elected president three years later, becoming the country's first directly elected head of state after its "Arab Spring" uprising.

He co-brokered a historic power-sharing deal between his Nidaa Tounes movement and Islamist party Ennahda that helped to steady the country, but the tie-up later frayed and Nidaa Tounes fractured into political infighting centring on Essebsi's son, who became party leader.

Though Tunisia remained a democratic exception in a troubled region, critics accused Essebsi of attempting a dynastic handover, rowing back on post-revolution freedoms, and failing to support a truth commission seeking justice for the victims of authoritarian rule.

Essebsi recently announced he would not run in the election scheduled for November, saying a younger person should lead the country.

Concerns had been growing about his fitness for office after he was hospitalized three times in recent weeks.

Politicians and social media users have expressed worry over a potential power vacuum ahead of the November polls and called for greater transparency about the president's health.

Tunisia's constitution, adopted in 2014, provides two measures in the case of a power vacuum.

The prime minister can take over the president's responsibilities for a period of no more than 60 days.

If the vacancy is longer, the speaker of parliament is tasked with the role for up to 90 days.

In both cases, the decision must be taken by a constitutional court after it validates the president's incapacity.

But eight years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia has yet to set up a constitutional court.

Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief of the United-Kingdom based International Interest magazine, said the parliament speaker, Mohamed Ennaceur, who is 85 years old, was likely to "take over in a transitional period and guide the country towards elections".

"People have been saying that because there are elections already due to take place in October, [Essebsi's death] is not as detrimental to the political scene as perhaps it would have been had he died during his particular term," he said from the British capital, London.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on October 6, followed by a presidential election on November 17.

Commenting on Essebsi's legacy, Hamdi said: "Tunisia is still faring far better than Libya, Syria and the like in the sense that it has avoided war. However, this is not to deny that Tunisia is going through a very bad economic crisis. There is still incredible class divides and poverty.

"We have seen the return of lobby groups, business interests and foreign intervention. Nevertheless there is still a belief that in 2019 all hope is not lost, that there is still some sort of democratic process.

"There is an admission that the people still have power. With regards to Tunisians, there is despair – nobody can deny that. However in comparison to other countries, there is still hope that we can fix the path and go towards a more prosperous Tunisia."


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