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The current president of Tunisia. Founding president Habib Bourguiba appointed him prime minister in 1987, and a month later Ben Ali had Bourguiba declared senile and succeeded him as president. Initially it was hoped that Ben Ali would prove a more liberal ruler in the face of increasing political opposition, economic disturbance, and Islamist unrest, but his record quickly deteriorated and Tunisia is now a place of serious and continuous human rights violation.

Born on 3 September 1936 in Hammam Sousse, he trained at French military schools at St-Cyr and Châlons-sur-Marne, and was a member of Bourguiba's Néo-Destour Party. He headed a Military Security Department from 1964 to 1974, then various forms of head of National Security from 1977. He also served as military attaché to Morocco and ambassador to Poland.

General Ben Ali being appointed Prime Minister on 2 October 1987, he took advantage of the clause in the constitution that made him the president's heir, and of the old age and increasingly unpopularity of President Bourguiba, and staged his "medical coup d'état" on 7 November.

Political parties other than Néo-Destour were legalized in 1992 and Néo-Destour became the Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique. They have dominated the National Assembly since then, and Ben Ali was re-elected president with over 99% of the vote in 1999, though other candidates were permitted to stand. This ought to have been his final five-year term, but a referendum in 2002 changed the consitution to allow two more.

His continuing repression of Islamic militants particularly of the Nahda Party has made them more militant. His government also persecutes advocates for human rights, democracy, and freedom of speech. Journalists have often got into serious trouble.

< Habib Bourguiba - Tunisia

Principally based on www.africaexpert.org/people/profiles/profilesforperson2087.html

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