Tunisia has less than two months to organise snap elections following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi, amid uncertainty over who could step forward to run the North African country.
Essebsi, the country’s first head of state elected in nationwide polls, died Thursday at the age of 92, triggering fears of political unrest in a country seen as a rare success story following the Arab Spring uprisings.
Newspapers on Friday paid tribute to “the father of consensus”, while festivals were canceled and the government declared seven days of mourning.
“Our pain is great, our sorrow is immense,” read an editorial in French-language daily Le Temps.
Essebsi’s body was set to be taken from the military hospital of Tunis on Friday to the presidential palace in nearby Carthage for a private burial.
Within hours of Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president, who under the constitution has 90 days to organise a presidential election.
The electoral commission said the poll would “probably” be held on September 15, two months earlier than planned.
Foreign governments including that of former colonial power France have hailed Essebsi’s role in Tunisia’s democratic transition, with nearby Algeria and Mauritania declaring three days of mourning.
The main funeral ceremony is to take place on Saturday in the presence of several foreign heads of state, according to Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.