Just four days after Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, a long-time opponent of the dictator, returned to Tunis on January 18 to a hero’s welcome.
A doctor and staunch champion of human rights Marzouki was forced into exile to escape the repression of Ben Ali’s regime.
He spent 10 years in France but even before he left his flat in Paris in January, homeward bound, the 66-year-old was thinking about the presidency.
“I would really appreciate to be part of this new Tunisia, whether I’m president or not,” he said. “This is not the problem. The problem is that for the first time I am proud to be Tunisian, I’m proud to be Arab.”
Marzouki is the head of the Congress for the Republic, a secular left-wing nationalist party he founded in 2001, and part of the coalition with the overall election winner, the Islamist Ennahda party.
About 40 opposition assembly members spoiled their ballot papers, calling the presidency ‘democratic window-dressing’.
His election to the post is part of the coalition power-sharing deal. The same agreement will put Ennahda’s general secretary Hamadi Jebali in the Prime Minister’s office.
“It must be a state of citizenship, a civil state of citizenship where all citizens will have their rights, whatever their political or religious leanings,” Jebali told euronews. “So it’s a state guarantee of individual and collective freedom, a state based on independent institutions.”
As president Marzouki’s powers will be limited.
He will set Tunisia’s foreign policy and he will be commander-in-chief of the armed forces – but in both respects he will have to act with the consent of the prime minister.
After his election, Marzouki thanked all those who voted for him, and even those who did not, saying their message had been received.