Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

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Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (زين العابدين بن علي; born September 3, 1936) has been president of Tunisia since 1987, only the second since its independence from France in 1956.

Ben Ali was born in Hammam-Sousse. As a young man, and a member of a group representing the Neo-Destour party, he was sent to France for military training. He graduated from the Inter-Arms School of Saint-Cyr and the Artillery School in Chโlons-sur-Marne, and then continued his military education in the United States.

Ben Ali was appointed to establish and manage the military security department in 1964, which he ran until 1974. He was promoted to director-general of the National Security in 1977 after serving as military attach้ to Morocco. Ben Ali returned from four years as ambassador to Poland to become head of the National Security and then secretary of state. He assumed this post at a time of increasingly radical Islamic activity. For his success in dealing with this threat to the regime he was appointed interior minister, and retained this position when he was made prime minister under President Habib Bourguiba in October 1987.

Ben Ali deposed Habib Bourguiba and assumed the presidency on November 7, 1987 (a symbolic date for his regime) with some popular support. Seven doctors signed a paper declaring that Habib Bourguiba was unfit for office. He then retained his predecessor's non-aligned foreign policy stance and supported the economy which has been growing since the early 1990s. Big public works projects, including airports, highways or housing, have been undertaken. However, unemployment remains the biggest economical problem.

Ben Ali continued his predecessor's authoritarian approach and cult of personality (his activities occupy most of the daily news). Although he announced political pluralism in 1992, his Democratic Constitutional Rally (formerly Neo-Destour party) continues to dominate the national politics. His regime continues not to allow the opposition's activities and the freedom of press remains a masquerade. In 1999, although two unknown alternative candidates were permitted for the first time to stand in the presidential elections, Ben Ali was reelected with 99.66% of the vote. He was again reelected on October 24, 2004, officially taking 94.48% of the vote, after a controversial constitutional referendum in 2002 which allows him to stand in office at least until 2014.

Preceded by:
Habib Bourguiba
President of Tunisia
Succeeded by:

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