TUNIS - Founder and Chairman of Nidaa Tounes, or “Call of Tunisia” party, Beji Caid Essebsi announced that he will run for president, sparking mixed reactions from politicians and ordinary Tunisians alike.
The opposition leader said in an interview broadcast on Nessma TV that his candidacy for President springs from a belief in his ability to "serve Tunisia" in light of the ruling troika’s failure to improve the economic situation in the country.
Essebsi said that economic conditions had deteriorated since Ennahda came to power and that there had been a setback in freedoms.
Essebsi’s decision appears to be a personal one that was not discussed with other parties within the Alliance for Tunisia coalition, including Al Massar and Al Jomhouri, along with Nidaa Tounes.
Tunisian news website Jadal reported that members of Al Massar and Al Jomhouri were surprised by Essebsi’s announcement.
According to the third and final draft of Tunisia’s new constitution, potential candidates for president must be between 40 and 75 years of age. Essebsi is 86.
But during an interview with radio Express FM, Essebsi’s lawyer, Abdessatar Messaoud, said that his client stands by his decision, regardless of what the draft constitution states.
The lawyer added that the eligibility conditions regarding age, as well as a law that bans those who served under the former regime from participating in politics, aimed to bar Essebsi from political life.
Messaoud said that members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) should not approve the eligibility conditions for president and that if they don’t reach a consensus, the issue could go to a public referendum.
Essebsi, a statesman and Tunisian lawyer, is still resourceful and knows exactly how to move his audience. Some of his critics think he's no longer within the political age of governing and others call for his "political death," but one thing is certain: Essebsi is disturbing.