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Tunisian president's death leaves conflicted legacy, unclear future

The ultimate measure of late President Beji Caid Essebsi's rule may be the seamless transfer of power to a new Tunisian president.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi attends a summit between Arab league and European Union member states, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RC1131697370

Beji Caid Essebsi, the first democratically elected president of Tunisia, died today aged 92. The president of the parliament, Mohamed Ennaceur, 85, has replaced him in an interim capacity, in line with the constitution.

That Essebsi was in poor health was well known. Rarely appearing in public after being hospitalized in late June, a video posted July 22 by his office showing a clearly frail Essebsi meeting with the defense minister did little to reassure observers concerned for the country’s future. Rumors of Essebsi's failing health had previously reached fever pitch following his second hospitalization during suicide bombings in Tunis on June 27, when reports of his death began circulating widely on social media. Now, with Essebsi's passing confirmed, it can be said that he leaves behind a conflicted legacy.

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