Tunisian secular leader Essebsi sworn in as new president
Tunisian presidential race front-runner Beji Caid Essebsi - REUTERS
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TUNIS:  Veteran politician Beji Caid Sebsi was sworn in as Tunisian president on Wednesday, giving the country a democratically elected leader four years after an uprising ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Essebsi, a former official in Ben Ali’s government, won a second-round runoff election this month after presenting himself as an experienced technocrat able to bring Tunisia the stability it needs after the political unrest following the 2011 revolt.

With successful free elections and a new constitution, Tunisia has been held up as a model for democratic change and compromise between its secular and Islamist factions in a region beset by chaos and violence.

But the return of a former Ben Ali old guard stalwarts like Essebsi has worried opponents.

“I am committed to be president of all Tunisian men and women without exclusion,” the secular Essebsi said at the swearing in ceremony at the parliament. “There is no future without consensus among all parties and social movements.”

Essebsi, 88, was a former parliament speaker in Ben Ali’s government and before that held minister posts in the government of the country’s first post-independence leader who established the one-party system. Ben Ali fled into exile after the 2011 uprising.

Essebsi won 56 percent of the vote in the run-off against 44 percent for the incumbent Moncef Marzouki, who had portrayed the return of Ben Ali officials as a blow to the legacy of the 2011 revolt.

The president’s Nidaa Tounes party also holds the most seats in the new parliament. But Nidaa Tounes will be forced to negotiate a coalition government with smaller parties. It also faces tough rivals in Islamist party Ennahda, who won the first election in 2011, and now hold the second largest number of seats in the parliament. (Reporting by Mohamed Agoubi; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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