In an interview, published on Monday February 22, with the London based El Araby El Jedid (The New Arab) Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi. The interview touched on his daily routine, reading habits, his relationship with Habib Bourguiba, his centrist doctrine and most significantly in terms of news the role of his family in Presidential and party politics.
In addition to commenting on the relationship between Nidaa Tounes and Islamist Ennahda, on which Essebsi said “Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes are two parallel lines that do not meet.” President Essebsi discussed his work habits and daily routine, Essebsi told El Araby El Jedid that he rises at eight, returns to the Presidential residence at 1pm (13h) for lunch. Essebsi added that he has not left the Presidential Palace since visiting Prime Minister Habib Essid, while the latter was hospitalized for several days after surgery.
Essebsi told ‘The New Arab’ that he reads daily, at present it is a biography of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that Essebsi is leafing through. The President said he “wanted to know how this man managed to single-handedly change the world attitude towards him”.
The ‘New Arab’ interview is making its biggest splash in Tunisian news for Essebsi’s comments on the Presidential family, always a touchy subject in Tunisia.
Essebsi told the newspaper “I’m the only president who has not appointed one of his family members in political office. I know what to do and what not to do.” Essebsi refuted rumors that his wife, Saida Caid Essebsi, interferes in political decisions “today or in the past.”
But by far the most significant news came from Essebsi’s announcement that he had asked his son Hafedh Caid Essebsi to resign from Nidaa Tounes. According to Essebsi made the request in order to put an end to rumors of a dynastic succession, which were nothing more than “personal attacks”.
The announcement, almost two months after the disastrous Nidaa Tounes party congress in Sousse the announcement comes too late for the thirty five deputies at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) who have already left the party and resulted in Nidaa Tounes losing its parliamentary majority to Ennahda.