Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first president after post-spring, dies

Died on Thursday (25), aged 92, Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first democratically elected president in the post-Arab Spring era. He was admitted to a Tunis hospital for medical conditions not yet specified.

In power since December 2014, Essebsi has been an important political actor in the North African state for several decades and has held various positions, including head of national security, interior minister, defense minister, and foreign minister.

Born in 1926, Essebsi took power in a troubled political landscape after Tunisia witnessed the popular revolution known as the Arab Spring. The popular revolts overthrew then-President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who later fled to Saudi Arabia, avoiding a life sentence in absentia for ordering security forces to shoot unarmed protesters.

From French occupation to Arab spring

During the 1950s, when Tunisia was still under French colonial occupation, Essebsi, a young student in Paris, participated in the national struggle against the occupation of Tunisia alongside activists from the New Liberal Constitutional Party.

Following Tunisia’s independence in 1956, Essebsi held many important positions, including that of director of national security in 1963, during the tenure of President Habib Bourguiba. As head of security, Essebsi faced criticism from opponents for allegedly torturing detainees during interrogations.

Beji Caid

Still under Bourguiba’s command in 1969, he became Minister of Defense. The following year he assumed the position of Tunisian ambassador in France. In 1981, Essebsi was appointed Tunisian Foreign Minister. Two years after the overthrow of President Bourguiba in 1989, Essebsi was elected member of parliament, where he remained until 1991.

After a long absence from the political scene, Essebsi returned to politics as prime minister during the brief transitional government formed after Ben Ali was ousted in the 2011 revolution. But he later took office in a few months, when the Ennahda Movement took office. power in the country.

He then founded the Nidaa Tounes party, which later managed to win the country’s first parliamentary elections, leading to a permanent parliament in the post-Ben Ali era. In September 2014, Essebsi officially submitted his candidacy for the first presidential elections since the revolution. of 2011.

Protesters march on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in downtown Tunis. 14 Jan 2011

During Essebsi’s presidency, he took controversial positions on a number of sensitive social issues, including a family inheritance policy at odds with Islamic law, as well as legalizing marriages between Tunisian Muslim women and non-Muslim men, contrary to Islamic religious jurisprudence.