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Tunisia’s aging president hospitalized with serious illness

U.S. & World
Beji Caid Essebsi

FILE – In this photo taken on Oct.3, 2018 Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi is pictured during a joint press conference with his Djibouti counterpart at the presidential palace in Carthage, near the Tunisian capital, Tunis. Tunisia’s 92-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi has been taken to a military hospital after falling seriously ill. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File)

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s first democratically elected president, 92-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, has been taken to a military hospital after falling seriously ill.

Essebsi’s office announced his hospitalization Thursday. The president also was briefly hospitalized last week.

Essebsi won office in 2014 in the wake of the country’s Arab Spring uprising.

He recently announced he wouldn’t run in the election set for November, saying a younger person should lead the country. Essebsi has seemed increasingly frail during recent appearances.

If the president is incapacitated, Tunisia’s Constitution calls for the president of parliament to take over until an election is held.

Essebsi’s centrist movement presents itself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism and a beacon of stability amid the rocky transition to democracy in Tunisia.

However, the president has been unable to calm the political and economic chaos that have plague Tunisia. Twin suicide bombings were carried out Thursday in the capital, Tunis.

Lawmaker Mustafa Ben Ahmed sought to calm fears about the president’s health and the country’s leadership.

“We wish him well. We have the Tunisian Constitution that guides us in all that is necessary in the absence of the president,” he said.

___

Mehdi El Arem in Tunis and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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