Tunisian president Essebsi’s condition ‘stable’

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Tunisia’s 92-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, a major player in the country’s transition to democracy since 2011, was taken to a military hospital on Thursday after suffering a “severe health crisis,” the presidency said.

One of Essebsi’s advisers told Reuters during the day that he was in a “very critical” condition. On Thursday evening, the adviser said the president’s condition was beginning to improve, without elaborating.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Facebook that Essebsi was receiving the attention he needed and that people should stop spreading fake news about his condition, after some reports said the president had died.

The presidency said in a new statement that “his condition now is stable and he is under the necessary checks.”

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 autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 which set the North African country on a path to democracy, avoiding the more violent upheavals seen in the rest of the region.

He led the immediate transition as prime minister in 2011 and was elected president three years later. Essebsi was a senior figure before 2011, having served as foreign minister under state founder Habib Bourguiba and parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali.

He said in June he would not run for a second term in presidential elections this year, despite his party’s calls for him to stand. The party has not identified another candidate yet.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed visited President Beji Caid Essebsi in hospital and called on people to stop spreading fake news about his health, he said on his Facebook page.

“I assure the Tunisians that the President of the Republic is in the process of receiving all the necessary attention he needs,” Chahed wrote.

“I call on everyone to refrain from broadcasting false news that will cause confusion among Tunisians.”

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