The first freely elected president of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, tragically passed away on Thursday at the age of 92. Essebsi was the world’s oldest sitting president and played a large role in shaping his country’s democratic transition after decades of authoritarian rule in 2014.
“On Thursday morning, the President of the Republic died at the military hospital in Tunis. The burial ceremony will be announced later,” the presidency said in a statement.
Before becoming the ruler of Tunisia, Essebsi served as the interior minister and the speaker of parliament.
Today, July 25 is the Tunisian Republic Day and citizens were anticipating a nationwide address by the country’s president. Instead, residents were left in a state of shock.
According to BBC, the democratic leader was admitted to the hospital last month after a “severe health crisis,” and was hospitalized again on Wednesday.
Several civilians, celebrities, influencers, and leaders have taken to social media to mourn the loss of the first democratically elected president.
As specified in a television announcement, the current speaker of parliament Mohamed Ennaceur will serve as the country’s temporary president, in accordance with the Tunisian constitution.