No Power Vacuum in Tunisia after President’s Health Crisis
Tunisian authorities said Friday that President Beji Caid Essebsi's condition was improving and insisted there was no power vacuum in the North African country, shaken by the 92-year-old leader's hospitalization and twin suicide attacks.
Essebsi was taken to hospital for a "serious illness" on Thursday, the same day that bombings claimed by the ISIS group killed a police officer in Tunis and wounded several other people.
"We have a president. There is no constitutional vacancy," one of Essebsi's key advisors, Noureddine Ben Ticha, told the Express FM radio station, according to AFP.
Presidential spokeswoman Saida Garrach said that Essebsi's "state of health is improving".
The president had met with the defense minister early on Friday morning and should leave hospital "soon", she told state radio, without giving further details.
On Thursday several media outlets had reported Essebsi's death after the presidency announced that one of the world's oldest heads of state -- behind only Britain's 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II -- was taken to hospital.
But those claims were denied by the authorities.
Key adviser Firas Guefrech said the president was in a "critical" but "stable" condition, while the leader's son Hafedh Caid Essebsi said his father's condition was starting to improve.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed visited the ailing leader and said he was receiving "the necessary care", warning people not to spread "false and confusing information".
The elderly head of state was hospitalized last week as well, for what the presidency described as non-serious treatment.
Essebsi has been a prominent figure in Tunisia since the overthrow of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Essebsi led the immediate transition as prime minister in 2011. He was elected president three years later. Essebsi had also been a senior figure before 2011, having served as foreign minister under state founder Habib Bourguiba and parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali.
In June, he said he would not run for a second term in elections this year, despite his party calling for him to stand. The party has not identified another candidate yet.
Parliamentary elections are expected to be held on October 6 with a presidential vote following on November 17.