Tuesday was an great day for Tunisia and for the Arab world in general as the first elected president of Tunisia was sworn in. Moncef Marzouki, 66, a French trained doctor, had tears in his eyes when he solemnly promised to be the "president of all Tunisians".
Marzouki was a long time advocate for human rights who was quite popular and some ten years ago was forced by the former president Zein al Abidin Ben Ali to live in exile in France. He returned only during last years revolution and and immediately after that founded the middle of the road 'Congress for the republic' party, which came in second in the elections. It was quite an achievement and after the the inauguration Marzouki told the news agency AFP that he felt that it was ''a great honour to become the first president of the first free republic of the Arab world."
The new president, wearing a traditional camel-coloured tunic over his jacket, promised that he will be 'faithful to the martyrs and to the objectives of the revolution. Without their sacrifice, I would not be here,' he added, calling on people to also "pray for the people of Syria and Yemen".
The new Tunisian leader said "other nations are watching us as a laboratory of democracy. The main challenge is to attain the revolution's goals. Our mission is to promote our Arab-Muslim identity and be open to the world; to protect the veiled (women) and girls in niqab as well as those who aren't veiled." He promised to safeguard health, education and women's rights.Calling for national reconciliation, he urged the opposition which objected to the alliance of his party with the islamists of Ennahda "to participate in the nation's political life and not confine itself to a role of observer".
Marzouki moved into Ben Ali's old seaside palace, beside the Roman ruins at Carthage. His first task will be to name Hamadi Jebali -- the number two of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which won October elections -- as prime minister of a new government to be unveiled on Wednesday, he told reporters.
Most ministerial posts are expected to go to Ennahda, according to political sources, while its allies from Marzouki's Congress for the Republic, and Ettakatol that came third in the elections and some independents are also expected to take some portfolios.
Before taking up residence in the palace, Marzouki held talks with the outgoing president Fouad Mebazaa, who was appointed interim president after Ben Ali's January 14 ouster at the beginning of a tumultuous year for Tunisia.
Marzouki was elected on Monday with 153 votes in the 217-member constituent assembly, with three of the 202 deputies present voting against, two abstaining and 44 opposition members, who oppose any cooperation with the islamis, casting blank ballots. He will stay for a year, till the work of writing a neew constitution will be finiehd. After that ther will be new elections.
Marzouki, who headed the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LTDH) from 1989 until Ben Ali supporters forced him out in 1994, has a deep-seated passion for human rights and is an admirer of India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, and Neslon Mandela of South-Africa. He is a father of three, and is divorced from his French wife. A prolific writer, he has penned several books in French and Arabic including one titled "Dictators on Watch: A Democratic Path for the Arab World."