Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: Wikis


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Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
زين العابدين بن علي

Assumed office 
7 November 1987
Prime Minister Hédi Baccouche
Hamed Karoui
Mohamed Ghannouchi
Preceded by Habib Bourguiba

In office
2 October 1987 – 7 November 1987
President Habib Bourguiba
Preceded by Rachid Sfar
Succeeded by Hédi Baccouche

Born 3 September 1936 (1936-09-03) (age 73)
Hammam-Sousse,  Tunisia
Political party RDC
Spouse(s) Leila Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Arabic: زين العابدين بن عليZayn al-‘Ābidīn bin ‘Alī), (born 3 September 1936) is a dictator who has acted as the President of Tunisia continuously since 7 November 1987 [1] [2] [3], [4] [5]. Previously a military figure, he took power from President Habib Bourguiba by a bloodless coup, after serving briefly as Prime Minister. He leads an authoritarian regime in the guise of a procedural democracy. In the Economist's 2008 Democracy Index Tunisia is classified as an authoritarian regime ranking 141 out of 167 studied countries (worse than The Peoples Republic of China, Egypt, Sierra Leone and Pakistan).

The day of his succession, 7th of November, is celebrated by the state as national holiday, with many public buildings and even the national currency, the state television and the only private airline and TV station (both owned by the family of the President's wife) all carrying the '7 November' logo. The state cultivates his personality cult. On a daily basis newspapers run eulogistic articles praising the President whose picture appears in the first page on a daily basis, often alongside similar articles and pictures of his wife, Leila [1]. Large pictures of President Ben Ali and 'spontaneously' erected banners praising him are found on all public buildings and majors streets. The new international airport is named after the sitting president too. [2]

The rubber stamp parliament repeatedly passes laws that make it appear democratic to outsiders. Since 1987, Tunisia has formally reformed its political system several times. It has theoretically abolished life presidency and opened up the parliament to opposition parties. In reality, however, all power is monopolized formally by the President and his party - which incidentally is housed in Tunis's tallest tower - and informally by influential families such as the all powerful Trabelsis from the President's wife's side, Leila, a former coiffeuse. [3][4][5][6]Recently Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who are accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina [7]

According to Amnesty International " the Tunisian government is misleading the world as it conveys a positive image of the human rights situation in the country while abuses by its security forces continue unabated and are committed with impunity" [6]. Reporters without borders includes Ben Ali in the list of 'Enemies of the Internet' together with the leadership of North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan [7] [8].

The President's party, known as the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) in French, is composed of about 2 million members and more than 6000 representations throughout the country and is largely overlapping with all important state institutions.



2009 National elections

On October 25, 2009, national elections were held in Tunisia. The election consisted of a presidential one and a parliamentary one. The sitting president Zinedine Ben Ali won yet another landslide victory, with 89.62%. His main opponent, Mohamed Bouchiha, received 5.01%. The president's party, the CDR, also got the majority of votes for the parliamentary election, 84.59%. The Movement of Socialist Democrats party received 4.63%[citation needed].

The election received criticism from both internal and foreign media [8]. Human Rights Watch has reported that parties and candidates were denied exposure remotely similar to that of the sitting president [9] and that the Ettajdid party weekly publication, Ettarik al-Jadid, was seized by authorities[10].

Government appointment

Ben Ali was born in Hammam Sousse. He was appointed to establish and manage the Defense Ministry's Military Security in 1964, which he ran until 1974. He was promoted to director-general of National Security at the Ministry of the Interior in 1977 after serving as military attaché to the Kingdom of Morocco. He returned from four years as Ambassador to Poland to become once again head of National Security at the Ministry of the Interior but this time with Cabinet rank. For his success in dealing with the political opponents and their threat to the regime, he was promoted to Minister of the Interior, and retained this position until he was appointed Prime Minister, though many Tunisians believe that he never completed high school.

Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister by President Habib Bourguiba on 1 October 1987; in this position, he was the President's constitutional successor. Five weeks after becoming head of the government, he had President Bourguiba declared medically unfit for the duties of the office and assumed the presidency on 7 November 1987, in what was a medico-legal coup. The constitutional destitution of President Bourguiba was popular and legitimately based on Article 57, that allowed the procedure.[citation needed] Since then many Tunisians have become disillusioned by the lack of democracy in the country, the growth of the police and security services, and the uneven distribution of wealth.[citation needed]

He then retained his predecessor's pro-western foreign policy and supported the economy which has been growing since the early 1990s. Growth in 2002 slowed to a 15-year low of 1.9% due to drought and lackluster tourism. Better conditions after 2003 have helped push growth to about 5% of GDP. Privatization, increasing foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency and reduction of the trade deficit are challenges for the future.[11]

Work as President

Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (formerly Neo-Destour party) continues to dominate the national politics. In 1999, although two alternative candidates were permitted for the first time to stand in the presidential election, Ben Ali was reelected with 99.66% of the vote. He was again re-elected on 24 October 2004, officially taking 94.48% of the vote, after a controversial constitutional referendum in 2002 which allowed him to seek reelection.

Following calls from his own political party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, for him to run again in the 2009 presidential election, Ben Ali said at a party congress on 30 July 30 2008 that he would stand for re-election as the party's candidate.[12]. Unfortunately, there is little critical reporting (some in French, see Le Monde) and almost nothing in English that challenges Ben Ali's claims of promoting democracy. [9] On October 25, 2009, he was re-elected for a fifth term with an overwhelming 89 percent of the vote.[13]

Freedom of the press is officially guaranteed and condoned. However, human rights organization Reporters Sans Frontieres states that "Tunisians have no access to independent news in the local media and the press, radio, TV and the Internet is under the president’s control. Journalists and media are actively discouraged from being more independent by means of bureaucratic harassment, advertising boycotts and police violence."[14]. Ben Ali has particularly targeted internet activists creating forums for discussion and dissent, the most notable cases of these are Zouhair Yahyaoui and the Zarzis Affair.[15]

Many political prisoners remain in jails or in exile in and out of the country. Many disappearances, deaths and torture cases have been reported by human rights organisations. Many arrests are a result of individuals venturing into the internet to bypass government propaganda and controlled press.[16] Ben Ali introduced a law that exonerates him from future prosecution and thus gave himself an amnesty.

A survey done in 2008 stated that one in three that have had Tunisian molokheya eventually became victims of HIV-Aids.


Ben Ali was first married to Naima Kefi, the daughter of General Kefi, Tunisia's first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had three daughters (Ghazwa, Dorsaf and Cyrine); he divorced her in 1992 and married Leila Trabelsi - a former hairdresser - whom he met when he was President Habib Bourguiba's minister of the Interior. With her, he has two daughters (Nessrine and Halima) and a son (Mohamed Zine El Abidine) who was born in 2004 (source: Encyclopedia of the Orient at [10]).

In its January/February 2008 issue, the Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Tunisia's First Lady had been using the 737 Boeing Business Jet[17] of the government to make "unofficial visits" to European Fashion Capitals, such as Milan, Paris and Geneva. The report mentioned that the trips are not on the official travel itinerary. Bloggers tracked the official airplane on spotting webpages as Airliners.net. The first lady has been described as a shopaholic.[18][19] The Trabelsi family controls much of the business sector in the country.

Rumors have been circulating that Ben Ali's son-in-law Sakher al-Materi (the husband of Zine and Leila's daughter Nessrine) is being primed to eventually take over the country. As of October 2009, he has used family privileges and connections to create a place for himself in the country's economy, and is making his political debut. [11]


  1. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.lapresse.tn/pdf/la_une_pdf/2010-02-02_une.pdf. 
  2. ^ http://www.oaca.nat.tn/news_eng.htm
  3. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.instablogs.com/leila-ben-ali/. 
  4. ^ Beau, Catherine Graciet (2009)). La régente de Carthage: Main basse sur la Tunisie. Paris: Editions La Decouverte. 
  5. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.bakchich.info/La-regente-de-Carthage-main-basse,08817.html. 
  6. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.tunisiawatch.com/?p=504. 
  7. ^ "Ajaccio - Un trafic de yachts entre la France et la Tunisie en procès" (in French). 30 September 2009. http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/france/justice/0,,4822443,00-un-trafic-de-yachts-entre-la-france-et-la-tunisie-en-proces-.html. 
  8. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/19/tunisia-elections-rigging-ben-ali. 
  9. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". http://www.cafebabel.fr/article/31704/ahmed-brahim-elections-tunisie-octobre-2009.html. 
  10. ^ "HRW, Tunisia: Elections in an Atmosphere of Repression". http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/23/tunisia-elections-atmosphere-repression. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  11. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Tunisia
  12. ^ "Tunisian president to seek re-election", Reuters (IOL), July 30, 2008
  13. ^ De Montesquiou, Alfred (2009-10-26). "Tunisian president wins 5th term in landslide". Associated Press. http://dailyme.com/story/2009102600000446/tunisias-ben-ali-wins-mandate.html. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  14. ^ Reporters sans frontières - Tunisia
  15. ^ http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10915
  16. ^ Tunisia: Free Jailed Website Moderator (Human Rights Watch, 16-3-2006)
  17. ^ Picture of the official plane http://www.airliners.net/photo/Republic-of-Tunisia/Boeing-737-7H3-BBJ/0485035/L/
  18. ^ Foreign Policy Magazine. Jan/Feb 2008. page 104
  19. ^ Story Online http://www.foreignpolicy.com/users/login.php?story_id=4090&URL=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4090

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Habib Bourguiba
President of Tunisia
Preceded by
Rachid Sfar
Prime Minister of Tunisia
Succeeded by
Hédi Baccouche


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