Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali

(b. 1936)

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Habib ibn Ali Bourguiba (1903—2000) Tunisian nationalist and statesman

Islamic fundamentalism


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(b. 3 Sept. 1936).

President of Tunisia 1987–2011 Born in Hamam‐Sousse, he graduated from the French military academy of Saint‐Cyr, and received further military training in France and the USA. He rose to become Tunisia's most senior general, and in 1978 was appointed by Bourguiba to become Director‐General of National Security. After serving as ambassador to Poland (1980–4), he returned to become Minister of National Security, and Minister of the Interior in 1986. Though an active Muslim, in these posts he was mainly concerned with combating the growing militant Islamic fundamentalist movement.

A month after his appointment as Prime Minister, Bourguiba was found incapable of continuing office, whereupon Ben Ali assumed the presidency according to paragraph 57 of the Constitution. Despite constitutional changes, he remained careful to control political liberalization in order to contain the spread of the Islamic fundamentalist movement. He was re‐elected with over 99 per cent of the vote in 1994 and 1999, though the absence of free elections made the level of his real support difficult to ascertain. Following changes to the constitution, he was allowed to run again in 2004, when he won again with 95 per cent of the vote. This regime became increasingly corrupt and he was ousted following demonstrations in Tripoli at the start of 2011, and fled the country.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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