5 Facts About Habib Essid, Tunisia's Prime Minister Thrust Into The Spotlight By Museum Shooting

On Wednesday, an awful crime took place in the northernmost African nation of Tunisia. At least two gunmen descended on the National Bardo Museum in the capital city of Tunis and opened fire, reportedly killing 19 people and injuring 22 more before being shot dead by security forces. It's the sort of grisly incident which demands some kind of response, which means it might be a good time to get to know Tunisia's top dog. So, who is Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid?

He's a newcomer to the leadership post in Tunisia, that much is undeniable. Essid was nominated by the Tunisian parliament back in January, and ascended to the position of Prime Minister on Feb. 5. In post-revolution Tunisia, voters elect members, but they don't vote for their Prime Minister — the parliament itself nominates someone, and in this case it was Essid. The choice isn't without controversy, for reasons dating back to the pre-Arab Spring days of 2010 and 2011, when former Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was still in power.

Ben Ali's reign in Tunisia was an authoritarian one, boasting many of those staggeringly implausible election day victory margins you so often see in functional dictatorships.

Here are some basic facts about Essid, as he's now got the glare of the international spotlight shining on him.

  • He's 65 years old, and has served in several ministries in the past, Agriculture and Environment among them.
  • Essid was a high-ranking official in the Ben Ali government prior to its ousting, making his rise to power rather controversial.
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  • He's got an international background — he attended the University of Minnesota in his younger days, as the International Business Times notes, earning a master's degree in agronomy.
  • He's at the front of a coalition government, the result of a compromise struck when he first entered office. His initial selections for cabinet were shot down by the Islamist Ennahda party's voting bloc in parliament on the grounds that the picks were too secular. His cabinet now includes members of Ennahda, and Essebsi's anti-Islamist party Nida Tounes.
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This is pretty early in his tenure to be confronted with this kind of crisis, so it could prove informative as to how he'll respond to such pressurized situations in the future. Of course, different countries under different forms of leadership have arrived at drastically different responses to these sorts of attacks, and the culprits aren't even clear just yet.

It's probably worth noting that Tunisia has a rough recent history with radicalization, with the Islamic militant group ISIS proving particularly adept at recruiting within the nation, but any speculation beyond that acknowledgement is too far at this juncture. Suffice to say, we'll have to wait and see.

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