Al Arabiya profiles: Beji Caid Essebsi, the veteran Tunisia needed

The story of Beji and his journey in the world of politics since he was appoointed adviser in 1956

Published: Updated:

Al Arabiya has broadcasted a documentary about Beji Caid Essebsi, the 89-year-old Tunisian president.

The film, which was produced by the channel, coincides with Tunisia 60th independence anniversary. This documentary is about the story of the President Beji Caid Essebsi and his journey in the world of politics in Tunisia after its independence in 1956 when Habib Bourguiba, the first Tunisian prime minister called a young lawyer to join his office as a consultant.

Since then, Essebsi started to handle different political positions; he was minister of defense, minister of the interior, then became an ambassador then was appointed as the Tunisian foreign minister before becoming speaker of parliament.

Every time Essebsi left the world of politics, he returned to his initial career as a lawyer pleading before the courts.

The film tells the story of a political figure who was in charge of many Tunisian high-ranked positions. He retired from politics and worked again as a lawyer before getting back from the Tunisian revolution gate that toppled the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

He then was appointed an interim prime minister after the revolution, entrusted with the organization of elections and in heading up the country’s security at such a critical stage as the waves of revolution are still storming in Egypt and Libya.

Essebsi also supervised the organization of the elections that brought Islamists to power. Therefore, he was back to the troubled political scene in the country, founding a party that fought and won the election. He then ran for president and won over his rival, interim President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki and reached the Palace of Carthage that he knows very well.

This documentary summarizes the long and arduous political journey of Essebsi, which was launched from the government palace in Casbah in 1956 when he was invited by leader Habib Bourguiba and was appointed as an adviser in his office, all the way to the presidential palace in Carthage as president at the end of 2014.

The first part: Sidi Bou Said

The first part of the documentary started from the Sidi Bou Said village, Essebsi's birthplace. The first part tells the story of his family and the circumstances in which he had grown up between the two world wars.

It also tackles his studies between Tunisia and France, then back in the early fifties to work as a lawyer in the Tunisian courts. The first part focuses on the president’s life and his long career in politics till the early 90s when he resigned from the Tunisian parliament and went back to practicing law and writing.

Second part: Historical circumstances

As for the second part, it tackled the historical circumstances which paved the way for his appointment by interim President Fouad Mebazaa as Prime Minister after the resignation of Mohammad Ghannouchi and the social and security chaos endured by Tunisia at that stage. Beji Caid Essebsi led that phase and organized the elections that brought Islamists to power in Tunisia.

This part also highlights the successive crises faced by the troika, most notably the assassination of two political leaders and the issues that happened in Tunisia in that most sensitive post-revolution phase in its history and the return of Essebsi to the forefront, but this time as the opposition leader and founder of the Nidaa Tounes Party, that participated in the legislative and presidential elections to win in the second round of the presidency of the republic.

Third part: The president

The third part of the documentary starts with Essebsi in Carthage Palace as the president; a palace that he knows every detail about. It recalls some situations and historical events witnessed by the palace during Habib Bourguiba’s rule. It tackles the foreign trips of the Tunisian president to a number of countries to strengthen diplomatic relations.

This part sheds the light on some of the details concerning the organization of the visits and the preparations carried out by the presidential team before the his appearances in formal events.

This documentary is the third of its kind aired by Al Arabiya to Arab audiences this year, after the documentary about King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Moroccan King Hassan II. Along with the main character Essebsi, many Tunisian political figures who took part or witnessed the events were featured in the documentary.