Widow of late Tunisian President Essebsi dies as country heads to polls

Widow of late Tunisian President Essebsi dies as country heads to polls
Chadlia Caid Essebsi, 83, died on Sunday as Tunisia took to polls to pick a new leader.
2 min read
15 September, 2019
Chadlia Caid Essebsi died aged 83 [Getty]
Chadlia Caid Essebsi, the wife of the late Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi, passed away on Sunday as the first round of elections to select her husband's successor began, their son announced.

"My mother Chadlia, widow of Beji Caid Essebsi, is dead, may God bless her," Hafedh Caid Essebsi said on Facebook, just two months after his father passed away. 

In late July, the 83-year-old had welcomed heads of state who came to pay their respects to her husband, Tunisia's first president elected democratically by universal suffrage who died at the age of 92.

Elegant and discreet, she rarely appeared in public, in contrast to previous post-independence Tunisian first ladies, Leila Ben Ali and Wassila Bourguiba. 

"We tell each other everything and he always asks my opinion," she said in a rare interview with Leaders magazine in November 2014, during her husband's campaign. 

"This time, I felt that he was so eager to save Tunisia that I couldn't stop him. Sacrifices must be made when it is for one's homeland. Since then, I have undertaken necessary increased security measures, but we try to maintain the same pace of life." 

The couple had two daughters and two sons, including Hafedh, who took over the party founded by his father, Nidaa Tounes, at the cost of a power struggle that weakened the party. 

Meanwhile, millions of Tunisians headed to the polls on Sunday to choose Essebsi's successor in an election brought forward from November after his death weeks before the end of his mandate. 

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings and has been hailed as a rare example of democratic progress after its revolution that ousted longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Under the old regime, Essebsi held powerful positions including director general of the national police and interior minister. He later held the defence portfolio before becoming ambassador to France.

He became prime minister after the 2011 uprising and organised parliamentary elections later that year. 

Essebsi is the founder and chairman of the secularist Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunis) party.

In April, he said he did not plan to stand for re-election in polls due to be held in November this year in order to make way for someone younger.

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