Ben Ali: the Tunisian autocrat who laid the foundations for his demise

Pamela Abbott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s former long-time president who died in mid-September, will probably be remembered best as the first autocrat to fall during the popular uprisings that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. He ruled Tunisia with an iron fist for 23 years until he fled into exile in Saudi Arabia in January that year. This followed popular and mostly spontaneous and peaceful demonstrations in the country.

What sealed Ben Ali’s fate was the army’s withdrawal of support and its refusal to fire on protesters. By the middle of 2011 a Tunisian court had convicted him and his wife of embezzlement. They were both sentenced, in absentia, to 35 years in prison. In a second trial, he was convicted of smuggling drugs and guns, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Pamela Abbott received funding from the European Union for the reseach on which this article is based.


  • Syria
  • Arab Spring
  • Unemployment
  • Libya
  • Poverty
  • Inequality
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Tunisia
  • Corruption
  • Democracy in Africa
  • Crony capitalism
  • Ben Ali
  • Africa's strongmen


Dive into the research topics of 'Ben Ali: the Tunisian autocrat who laid the foundations for his demise'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this