Following the death of Tunisia's first democratically elected president, Beji Caïd Essebsi, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Nasser has taken over as interim president.
Tunisia is generally hailed as the most successful case of a democratic transition in the Arab World in recent times. Indeed, it was the very starting point in 2010 of what became to be popularly known as the “Arab Spring”. The recent death of the first popularly elected President of post-revolution Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, marked an end of the initial period of democratic transition, but also allowed for the possibility of the development of the democratic process. Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament, Mohammed al-Nasser, has been chosen as interim President to lead Tunisia into the next phase of its political development.
Following the inauguration of al-Nasser as interim President, the Supreme Independent Electoral Commission announced that presidential elections will be held in Tunisia on 15 September, as per the provisions of the Constitution, which states that the interim President may remain in their position for a period of 45-90 days.
Political analyst Kamal al-Charni considers the smooth implementation of the constitution’s provisions to be a vital step in Tunisia’s road to democracy:
“This is a democratic indicator and we have entered the stage of constitutional democratic institutions even if we were, unfortunately, deprived of the Constitutional Court. However, the presence of the head of the interim government and his standing with the president of the parliament is a very positive sign. We have gone beyond those absurd images of the Arab president being the ruler for life.”
This situation is a far cry from the authoritarian mode of government that Tunisia had been used to for decades. Tunisian society has demonstrated its maturity since the ousting of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 as the country has not experienced any political hiccups since then, in stark contrast to its neighbour Libya, which was plunged into a civil war following the ousting of Colonel Ghaddafi, and the return of authoritarianism in Egypt after the end of the Hosni Mubarak reign and the military coup against Muhammad Mursi. The only comparable success to Tunisia in recent times in North Africa has taken place in neighbouring Algeria, where former President Abduleziz Bouteflika was dethroned in April after a series of peaceful protests, which are continuing.