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Widow of late Tunisia leader Essebsi dies as presidential poll opens

Chadlia Caid Essebsi, the wife of the late Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi, passed away on Sunday as the first round of elections to select her husband’s successor began, their son announced.

Chadlia Caid Essebsi and her son Hafedh welcomed world leaders who travelled to Tunisia to pay their respects to the late president Beji Caid Essebsi in July (Picture by AFP)
Chadlia Caid Essebsi and her son Hafedh welcomed world leaders who travelled to Tunisia to pay their respects to the late president Beji Caid Essebsi in July (Picture by AFP)

“My mother Chadlia, widow of Beji Caid Essebsi, is dead, may God bless her,” Hafedh Caid Essebsi said on Facebook.

In late July, the 83-year-old had welcomed heads of state who came to pay their respects to her husband, Tunisia’s first president elected democratically by universal suffrage who died at the age of 92.

Elegant and discreet, she rarely appeared in public, in contrast to previous post-independence Tunisian first ladies, Leila Ben Ali and Wassila Bourguiba.

“We tell each other everything and he always asks my opinion,” she said in a rare interview with Leaders magazine in November 2014, during her husband’s campaign.

“This time, I felt that he was so eager to save Tunisia that I couldn’t stop him. Sacrifices must be made when it is for one’s homeland. Since then, I have undertaken necessary increased security measures, but we try to maintain the same pace of life.”

The couple had two daughters and two sons, including Hafedh, who took over the party founded by his father, Nidaa Tounes, at the cost of a power struggle that weakened the party.

Millions of Tunisians were headed to the polls on Sunday to choose Essebsi’s successor in an election brought forward from November after his death weeks before the end of his mandate.

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings and has been hailed as a rare example of democratic progress after its revolution that ousted longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. AFP