Marzouki poised to be Tunisia’s new president

November 19, 2011

Moncef Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist and a doctor by formation, is poised to be Tunisia’s next president.

The nomination of the leader of the Congress for the Republic party will be confirmed on Monday alongside that of Hamadi Jebali, the 63-year-old secretary general of the moderate Islamist party Al Nahda that dominated the national elections on October 23, as the head of government.

Mustafa Ben Jaafar, 71, the leader of Ettakatol, a secular social democratic party, will be the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly, under a deal reached during tense and difficult negotiations between the three parties.

Al Nahda, winner of 89 of the assembly’s 217 seats, the Congress for the Republic, 29 seats, and Ettakatol, 20 seats, have been negotiating for three weeks on the top positions in the North African country following the national elections held nine months after the toppling of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president who was ousted in a popular uprising in January.

But while there was immediate consensus on Jebali, a doctor who spent 15 years in prison for his activities under the banned Al Nahda, as the next head of the government in line with the parliamentary system championed by the Islamist party, there were deep divergences over the name of the president.

Both the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol initially said that they were not keen on the presidency and were interested only interested in forming a coalition government. However, they gradually became locked in a standoff for the post, expected to be largely ceremonial.

With the Constituent Assembly holding its first session on Tuesday, the three parties that had dodged the Popular Petition, the second runner-up with 26 seats but with a tinge of controversy laced to it, have endeavoured to reach an agreement on time for the historic day.

The weekend should see the negotiators agree on sharing the portfolios and on the names of the ministers who will join the new government.

The assembly will on Tuesday meet at the former parliament’s building in Bardo, in the outskirts of the capital, Tunis, initially under the leadership of the oldest deputy who will be assisted by the youngest male and female deputies until the Speaker and his two deputies are elected. Each of the 217 deputies will then take the oath.

Immediate major tasks include drafting a new constitution for the country, choosing a caretaker government and deciding the date of the next general elections.

A key issue in the drafting of the constitution will be whether the deputies will opt for a presidential or parliamentary regime for the country.

Al Nahda, the party banned for decades and allowed only in March, favours allowing the party that wins the elections to form the government. However, several other parties said that the presidential regime would ensure there is no domination by a single party.

Al Nahda with its comfortable lead, more than triple the first runner up, is expected to have a strong say in all matters. The party has been sending signals and making statements that it would reinforce Tunisia’s modernist tendencies, especially those related to tourism, a major cash earner for the state and thousands of people, and the status of women.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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