Tunisia president Essebsi says he does not want to run for a second term

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi gives a speech during the launch of his party Nidaa Tounes' congress in the coastal city of Monastir, about 160 kilometres south of the capital Tunis, on April 6, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 06 April 2019

Tunisia president Essebsi says he does not want to run for a second term

  • Mass protests that toppled ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria have stirred the opposition in Tunisia
  • Social media campaigns have begun rejecting a second term for Essebsi

TUNIS: Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Saturday he did not want to run for a second term in presidential elections expected this year, despite his party's calls for the 93-year-old to stand.
Mass protests that toppled ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria have stirred the opposition in Tunisia, and social media campaigns have begun rejecting a second term for Essebsi.
The Tunisian constitution adopted by parliament in 2014 gives him the right to run for two terms.
"I will say frankly that I do not want to present for a second term because Tunisia has a lot of talents," Essebsi said at a meeting of his party Nidaa Tounes in Monastir.
Tunisia will hold a parliamentary election on Oct. 6 and a presidential election starting on Nov. 17.
They will be the third set of polls in which Tunisians can vote freely following the 2011 revolution that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled for 23 years.
In December 2014, Essebsi won the first free presidential election, becoming Tunisia's first freely and directly elected president.
No prominent figure has so far declared their candidacy for the presidency this year.
Essebsi, a former parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali, has been the dominant figure in the North African country since his election in 2014, despite constitutional rules limiting his powers to defence and foreign relations. But he has lost influence since prime minister Youssed Chaded took office as prime minister in 2016.
The North African state has been hailed as the Arab Spring's only democratic success, because protests toppled Ben Ali without triggering the violent upheaval seen in Syria and Libya.
But since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia's economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund.


UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

Updated 29 min 13 sec ago

UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

  • The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs
  • The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has urged the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent a derelict tanker from leaking more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. The vessel fell into the hands of Iran-backed Houthi militias in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs, and as the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

An oil leak from the Safer’s tanks would be “one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region and the world,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative at the UN and president of the Security Council.

The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel, including the latest one from the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who demanded access for an international technical team.

Anwar Al-Ameri, head of the government oil company in Hodeidah, said an oil spill from the Safer would be more destructive to the environment than the damage caused by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. “A looming environmental disaster is awaiting the Red Sea countries if the oil tanker Safer is destroyed,” Al-Ameri said.

Michael Aron, UK ambassador to Yemen, has also warned of a potential catastrophe. “The threat to the environment in the Red Sea is enormous, and will impact on all the countries who share this coastline,” he said.

“We urgently need to allow UN experts to board the craft, assess its condition and take the necessary steps to secure the vessel and prevent the oil from leaking.”

Yemeni activists, politicians and government officials have launched a campaign on social media aimed at focusing attention on the derelict vessel and pressing the international community to act quickly to safe Yemen from disaster.

Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, said the Houthis were using the vessel to blackmail the legitimate government into offering concessions in peace talks brokered by the UN Yemen envoy, and to enable them to sell the vessel’s oil.

“We call on the international community to take swift and urgent measures to prevent this serious environmental catastrophe from happening,” he said.