Tunisia first freely elected Head of State is 88 years old Beji Caid Essebsi and was sworn into office on December 31, 2014 as part of the country’s final transition to a country governed by democracy, after beating the incumbent rival Moncef Marzouki in a narrow margin of 55.68% in the Presidential election held on 21st of December, 2014.
The newly-elected President is not a newcomer in the Tunisian political scene but a veteran with a long record of involvement in the affairs of government where he was foreign minister from 1981 to 1986 and briefly served as Prime Minister from February 2011 to December 2011.
A descendant from the Mamluk rulers of Tunisia, Mr Beji Caid Essebsi can count on the Arabic ruling pedigree in his bloodline and is naturally predestined to be in the Tunisian ruling class.
While the world’s crop of leaders are getting younger and younger where some were elected to the highest office of their respective countries in their early forties (Barrack Obama falls into this category as he became US President at a relatively young age of 47), it is surprising the electorate in Tunisia choose an octogenarian to be the President in the first freely held election.
Octogenarian or septuagenarian, it is important that an elected Head of Government embraces the modern age and realities that is impacting today’s globalized world where many issues such as free trade and information technology are breaking down barriers associated with the past. Many of the new crop of young leaders today have risen from the rank of so-called technocrat where they are savvy in many aspects of the globalised world and also tend to be more liberal leaning in their outlook on governance.
The last crop of septuagenarian to be elected into office such as F.W Botha and Ronald Reagan with their own brand of conservatism in the 80s were considered an anachronism if we view their conservative policies through the present age prism of political analysis. In fact both conservative leaders of that bygone era of 80s are considered unsuitable to govern today in this modern digital age.
Mr Beji Caid Essebsi must bud such a trend of perceptions and bring Tunisia out of its doldrum of economic malaise by tackling many pressing issues in the country such as economic inefficiency, unemployment and trade deficits. Economic stability means political stability in Tunisia. Since most of the electorate are young, his grasp of modern issues such as increasing trade and a better employment opportunities coupled with reduced corruption would be key in inevitably guaranteeing his tenure to win the next term.