Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader and heir to Tunisia’s founding father, has died aged 92.
Essebsi died Thursday morning at the Tunis military hospital, where he was rushed hours earlier, according to an official in the president’s office.
The presidential Facebook page said funeral plans will be announced soon.
According to Tunisia’s constitution, the president of the parliament will assume the presidency for 45 to 90 days while elections are organized.
Essebsi won office in 2014 in the wake of the country’s Arab Spring uprising. He emerged from retirement to seek the presidency at age 88, presenting his centrist movement as a bulwark against rising Islamic fundamentalism and political chaos that rocked Tunisia after the people’s revolt overthrew a longtime dictator and unleashed similar movements throughout the region.
He was, however, unable to bring prosperity or lasting calm to a country shaken by economic crises compounded by sporadic terror attacks.
Most of Essebsi’s political career came well before the Arab Spring. He was a symbol of Tunisia’s independence generation, though he outlived most of his peers who helped the country shake off French rule in 1956.
According to a brief life published by AP: He was born Nov. 29, 1926 when Tunisia was a French protectorate, Essebsi entered politics in the 1940’s and trained as a lawyer in Paris. But his name is most associated with Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, who built up the country and educated its people — and brooked little opposition.
Essebsi proudly claimed to be Bourguiba’s disciple, and from 1965 to 1986, he held several senior roles including defense minister, foreign minister and interior minister.
After Bourguiba was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 1987, Essebsi took up a quiet life as a lawyer and author, until his re-emergence after the Arab Spring.