Thursday, 25 July 2019 15:57

Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi, the first democratically elected leader, has died at the age of 92, according to the presidency. One of the world's oldest leaders, Essebsi died at the Tunis military hospital, the presidency said in a statement. 

He was hospitalised with a severe illness in late June, but returned to intensive care, his son said.

Drafted in as prime minister in 2011 after longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled, Essebsi was elected president three years later, becoming the country's first directly elected head of state after its Arab Spring uprising.

As prime minister, he helped draft a new democratic constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, and preparing Tunisia for free elections.

He also cobrokered an historic power-sharing deal between his Nidaa Tounes movement and Islamist party Ennahda that helped to steady the country, as other parts of the region such as Syria, Yemen or Libya struggled with upheaval and violence.