Tunisia's new president pledges reconciliation

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2014 8:08 AM
Tunisia's new president pledges reconciliation

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's new president pledged a rule of reconciliation and consensus as he took his oath Wednesday before the newly elected parliament to complete the country's democratic transition.

The inauguration of Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old political veteran, comes in a year in which Tunisians wrote a new constitution and elected a new parliament and president, ending a transition kicked off by a revolution.

Tunisians overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and inspired similar pro-democracy uprisings across North Africa and the Arab world, but only in Tunisia did fierce political rivals find common ground.

The victory of Essebsi, who served under Ben Ali and his predecessor and whose party includes many members of the previous regime, is widely seen as search for stability after the post-revolutionary turmoil.

Essebsi won over 55 percent of the vote Dec. 21 after a campaign marked by bitter exchanges with outgoing president Moncef Marzouki, who feared a return to dictatorship. A human rights activist, Marzouki represented the fervor and possibilities of the revolution but his tenure was marked by unrest, terror attacks and economic problems.

"We will work today to replace fear with hope," Essebsi said before parliament as he began his five-year term. "There is no future for Tunisia without consensus and without harmony between all the parties and civil society."

He said his priorities would be to re-establish security and stability, create jobs and fight poverty.

Essebsi must now designate a prime minister from his party, Nida Tunis, to form a new coalition government.

The question remains whether the Islamists, who ran the country for two years and are the second-largest group in parliament, will be part of any new government.