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Veteran human rights activist sworn in as Tunisia's president

Dr Moncef Marzouki emotionally vowed to be a president for “all Tunisians”, adding that the world would be closely watching the country’s “laboratory of democracy”.

Image: Amine Landoulsi/AP/Press Association Images

A HUMAN RIGHTS activist, who was once imprisoned and exiled by his native government, has been sworn in as Tunisia’s new president.

Dr Moncef Marzouki, 66, is head of the secular centre-left Congress for the Republic, which he founded in 2001. He was exiled for his opposition of the country’s former president Zine el Abidine ben Ali.

After Ben Ali fled the country amid massive revolt last January, Marzouki returned from France to a hero’s welcome.

During his swearing-in ceremony yesterday, Marzouki emotionally vowed to be a president “for all Tunisians”, saying that he would represent all of the country’s women – whether or not they wore the veil. He added that the world would be watching Tunisia’s  “laboratory of democracy”.

However, Marzouki warned that time and patience would be required to overcome the challenges ahead: ”We have to preserve the spirit of the revolution, speed up reforms, create job opportunities and encourage investments without exploiting people,” he said.

He added: “We have to stress our Arab, Islamic identity but at the same time we have to reach out to the west.”

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More than 40 opposition members returned blank ballots on the presidential vote, saying that it was “democratic window dressing”, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, Marzouki thanked both those who had voted for him and those who had not – saying that their message “had been received”.

Marzouki’s role will be the second-most powerful in the country, the Guardian reports.  As president, he will set Tunisia’s foreign policy and be commander-in-chief of the armed forces – but in both respects he will also have to secure the consent of the Prime Minister.

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