Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi died at the Tunis military hospital on Thursday morning, the presidency confirmed the news in a statement. He was admitted to hospital on Wednesday to receive treatment in the intensive care unit. He died at 10:25 a.m. local time.
“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, reported Reuters.
Essebsi’s state funeral would be held on Saturday. The presidency has urged Tunisians to unite and safeguard the nation’s present and future.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced a seven-day mourning period following Essebsi’s death, saying he had a pivotal role in the success of the democratic transition. Flags at state institutions will be lowered to half-mast, while cultural and sports events have been halted until further notice.
At the age of 92, Essebsi was the oldest sitting president in the world. He became Tunisia’s first democratically elected president in 2014. He has been a major figure in Tunisian politics since the uprisings that led to the overthrow of the longtime despot Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Earlier this year, Essebsi announced that he would not be seeking a second term to pave way for younger candidates in November elections. He said it was time to “open the door to the youth”.
The Independent Electoral Commission on Thursday announced the elections will now be held before the scheduled date of November 17. The first round of the presidential elections will be held on Sept. 15. The legislative elections, scheduled for Oct. 6, remain unchanged.
Notably, the Tunisian constitution calls for the parliament leader to take over for 45 to 90 days while elections are organized. Mohamed Ennaceur, the speaker of parliament, will now take over as interim president until the elections are conducted.