The news came four days after the first round of the Tunisian presidential election: Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who occupied the Carthage Palace from 1987 to 2011, died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he lived in exile for nearly of a decade. He succumbed to a long illness. "This is not a good year for presidents," commented, a little sarcastic, an old Tunisian. On July 25, Beji Caid Essebsi had also disappeared suddenly, provoking an early presidential election.
Ben Ali and Essebsi had in common to have grown up under Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence. But while Essebsi is committed to ensuring the "democratic transition" of his country, his predecessor will leave the memory of a business despot.
A slow start in school
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, born in 1936 to a modest family in the small coastal town of Hammam Sousse, had initially had a slow academic start. His dual involvement in the party Neo-Destour to power and in the army, will allow him to catch up. He will graduate from the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr and then from military institutes in the United States. Passionate about electronics, he also obtained an engineering degree.
Soon the young soldier will specialize in intelligence and security. He marries Naïma, the daughter of General Kefi, one of his first superiors, whom he divorced years later to marry in second marriage with Leïla Trabelsi, a younger hairdresser of twenty-one years.
The rise of Ben Ali is fast despite some snags: after leading military security and then national security, it is a moment away abroad before being recalled in 1984. The "bread riots" worried the palace. Carthage. Bourguiba, whose regime has hardened, named Ben Ali Minister of National Security and Interior Minister in 1986. Fatal error of judgment: a year later Ben Ali dismiss the old president in favor of a coup Medical State ".
Hopes showered by Islamist push
His arrival at the head of the state raises first high hopes in the population. But after two years of relative liberalization, the (presidential and legislative) elections of 1989 mark the rise of Islamists. Ben Ali immediately closes the parenthesis.
In the early 1990s, Ben Ali, supported by the West and France, restricts individual liberties, effectively eliminates multiparty politics and sets up a system of widespread corruption. Supported by his clan and that of Trabelsi, he will soon capture up to a quarter of Tunisian assets.
In spite of a strong economic growth, which varies between 5 and 8%, the poverty rages in particular in Tunisia of the interior, forgotten by the development, whereas the regime represses more and more harshly the political and social oppositions.
Sentenced in absentia, he will never return to Tunisia
In 2008, the riots of Gafsa are a new signal of alert which does not take into account Ben Ali. On December 17, 2010, a desperate young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi immolates himself by the fire and gives the signal for the revolution. The Arab Spring unleashed in Tunisia is a backdrop that will force Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, 2011. Exiled in Saudi Arabia in a luxurious home, he will never return to Tunisia where he is several times sentenced in absentia. Many of his nephews are still serving prison sentences. The raïs fallen should be buried, this Friday, in Saudi land in Jeddah.
In the first round of the presidential election, the candidate Abir Moussi tried to surf on a beginning of nostalgia of the Ben Ali era, which is in fact an aspiration to more safety. She collected less than 5%.