Jebali, Hamadi (Tunisia)
An engineer and journalist, Hamadi Jebali of the Islamist Ennahada Party served as prime minister from Dec. 2011 until March 2013 in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Hamadi Jebali was born in Sousse on 12 Jan. 1949 and graduated from Tunis University in mechanical engineering. Specializing in solar and wind power, he set up his own practice in Sousse while pursuing a parallel career in journalism as editor-in-chief of Al Fajr (Dawn), the weekly newspaper of the Ennahada Party. In June 1990 he received a suspended sentence and a fine for an article criticizing the lack of democracy in Tunisia. In Nov. the same year, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for publishing another article deemed inflammatory. In Aug. 1992 Jebali and 170 other members of Ennahada were charged with plotting a coup d’état. Despite protesting his innocence, Jebali was given a 16-year sentence.
Spending more than 10 years in solitary confinement, he engaged in several hunger strikes and was released in Feb. 2006 on the 50th anniversary of Tunisian independence. After the ‘Arab Spring’ civil unrest of Jan. 2011 that prompted President Ben Ali to flee into exile, Ennahada was legalized. An interim parliament was created in Oct. 2011 and Moncef Marzouki, head of the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), was installed as president 2 months later. On 14 Dec. he appointed Jebali as prime minister.
With tourism weak in the wake of the 2011 uprising, Jebali took office faced with both political and economic instability and rampant unemployment. He was also confronted with building workable relations between Islamists and liberal secular forces in the wake of the collapse of the previous authoritarian government.
Implementation of a series of fiscal stimulus packages from June 2011 saw the economy embark on a slow and faltering recovery. However, hopes of improving the political climate were hit by the assassination of an opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, on 6 Feb. 2013. Jebali called for the creation of a new government of technocrats to see the country through the crisis but this was rejected by the Ennahada Party and Jebali resigned his premiership on 19 Feb. 2013.