Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi passed away currently at age 92. The very first democratically elected president in Tunisia, Essebsi laid the groundwork for the country’s second republic amid a area of turmoil in the wake of the Arab Spring.
But he leaves a mixed legacy. A polarizing figure, Essebsi was hailed by his supporters for his years of service to Tunisia, which includes shepherding the nation to democracy. But to his opponents, Essebsi was a remnant of the ousted regime who undermined the democratic procedure.
Essebsi was a statesman with decades of knowledge, getting served as minister of interior (1965-69), defense (1969-70), and foreign affairs (1981-86) below President Habib Bourguiba, as effectively as president of the Chamber of Deputies (1990-91) below President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Just after Ben Ali’s ouster in 2011, Essebsi was pulled out of retirement and selected as a consensus prime minister to shepherd the nation to its very first democratic elections in 2011. Just after these elections have been won by a moderate Islamist celebration, Ennahda, Essebsi assembled a variety of political forces to oppose Ennahda, calling in 2013 for the dissolution of the really assembly he helped elect.
In the end, Essebsi chose to place nation more than celebration and negotiate with Ennahda’s president, Rached Ghannouchi, throughout a series of meetings starting in August 2013. These discussions led to a national dialogue and at some point a new constitution passed by consensus. Essebsi as a result played a pivotal part in saving Tunisia’s democracy throughout that 2013 crisis—but a crisis, his detractors point out, that he very first helped produce.
Essebsi subsequently won the 2014 presidential elections, becoming Tunisia’s very first democratically elected president. Surprising even his personal celebration, he chose to kind a grand, national unity government with his former rival, Ennahda, a move that some say saved Tunisia from civil war and won it international praise as a model of consensus and tolerance.
Essebsi’s tenure as president, having said that, was rocky. Tunisia was struck by 3 key terror attacks in urban places in 2015. Essebsi deserves tremendous credit for restoring safety, even though it came at the expense of safety sector reform. Meanwhile, the economy has continued to deteriorate, in spite of Essebsi’s efforts to revise the investment code and adhere to International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms.
Essebsi had hoped that his legacy would center about advances in women’s rights. He had proposed to grant ladies equal inheritance rights to guys, a very first in the Arab planet and a reform that would have constructed on the progressive Private Status Code initiated by his mentor, Habib Bourguiba. Nevertheless, Essebsi was unable to corral enough help for equal inheritance even amongst his personal celebration.
Alternatively, Essebsi’s presidency may perhaps be remembered most for his attempts to pursue reconciliation with the remnants of the Bourguiba and Ben Ali regimes. In 2017, Essebsi pushed by way of a reconciliation law that offered amnesty for corrupt officials from former regimes, undercutting the function of the Truth and Dignity Commission. He also refused the Commission’s request to promulgate an official apology for the 62,000 human rights abuses it documented below previous regimes—including some for which he was complicit in the 1960s.
His legacy as president has also been tainted by his favoritism for his son, Hafedh, who he sought to spot in his stead as head of his celebration, Nidaa Tounes. The outcome was a key fracturing of the celebration, and an exodus of members of parliament took it from very first to third spot in parliament and undermined his personal aim of forming a political counterweight to Ennahda.
In brief, Essebsi leaves behind a mixed legacy, simultaneously directing but also disrupting his country’s transition to democracy. He strove to incorporate the ancien regime in the political procedure, even if it posed a threat to democracy. That spirit of inclusion was embodied also in his final act as president: refusing to ban many controversial, populist candidates from the 2019 elections. Time will inform regardless of whether that inclusionary gesture will be implemented, and regardless of whether it will preserve or doom Tunisia’s young democracy. But what is particular is that Tunisia would not be the similar with no Essebsi.