Marzouki’s Election in Tunisia Provokes Support, Opposition, and Skepticism

By Asma Ghribi | Dec 13 2011 Share on Linkedin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Share on pinterest Print

Tags: Baheddine Hajri ,Emna Ben Jemaa ,Issam Chebbi ,Modernist Democratic Pole ,Mohamed Abbou ,

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki

Ten months after a popular uprising ended the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has entered a new era of democracy, drafting its “mini constitution” and swearing in Moncef Marzouki as president. Moncef Marzouki, from the center-left Congress for the Republic (CPR) party, was elected by 153 out of 217 votes to the position of President of the Republic of Tunisia December 12.

Still, some doubt Marzouki’s legitimacy – claiming that he was not elected by the people but rather appointed by what is being dubbed the “Troika” – the recently formed coalition of Ennahdha, Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol. All three parties condemned members of the assembly who objected to Marzouki’s candidacy by casting blank ballots.

Issam Chebbi, a member of the Constituent Assembly who was elected from the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), said to Tunisia Live that the Troika is not honoring its promise to the Tunisian people and is just following the path of the previous regime. “Even the new cabinet will be formed to protect the hegemony of certain parties rather than the interests of Tunisia,” he said.

The daily paper Assabah reported that Samir Bettaib, a member of the Constituent Assembly who was elected from the Modernist Democratic Pole (PDM), expressed his discontent with the “mini-Constitution.” He claimed that it does not meet the opposition’s expectations as it supposedly lacks balance between the different branches of government.

“We wanted a strong president – not laws that overly favor the prime minister and give the position tremendous powers,” said Bettaib, who was one of several members of the assembly who were skeptical of how ‘temporary’ the interim government really is.

“We refuse to vote for a president without a limited mandate,” Bettaib added.

On the other hand, several others in the Constituent Assembly were unreservedly happy with their choice. Nour Eddine L’bhiri, a member of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, said that he is “as proud and happy as any other Tunisian for this democratic achievement.”

“I want to congratulate Marzouki. I see that Tunisia is on the right track now,” he went on to say.

Souad Abederahim, another member of Ennahda, expressed similar feelings. “I am happy with this achievement – however, I wished to see a woman run for this postion, even though she may not win,” she said.

Mohamed Abbou, a member of the president’s former party CPR, was also content.

“I see Marzouki as a good choice and I think he will be able to help achieve the goals of the Tunisian revolution… A lot of challenges lie ahead of him – but I am sure he will fulfill all promises he made,” said Abbou.

Despite the fact that no other member of the Constituent Assembly was able to get 15 endorsement signatures, as required by the “mini-constitution,” Marzouki’s election triggered diverse reactions among the Tunisian public – support, opposition and some plain skepticism.

Caricature showing President Marzouki playing with toy tanks and soldiers

One point that resonated with many Tunisians was the lack of any ‘real’ powers attributed to the president’s job description. One caricature that was widely circulated on Facebook suggested that Marzouki is only left with the prerogative of being the commander in chief, with only the right to declare war and peace.

Other Tunisians were happy that Tunisia has witnessed the day when a once human rights activist and a prominent Ben Ali foe is elected as the president – suggesting that he deserves to be rewarded for his long history as a militant.

Emna Ben Jemaa, a Tunisian journalist and blogger, said, “No one is questioning Marzouki’s militancy, but it is a matter of fact that he was not elected by the people and [his appointment] is the outcome of an agreement between Ennahda and other parties.”

Baheddine Hajri, a jurist and blogger, addressed the opposition and asks what alternative scenario could be expected.

“From what I know about politics, everything is decided either by elections or by coalitions. The opposition should either accept the results or they should have nominated a candidate and defended their choice,” said Hajri.

On the other hand, Ben Jemaa says that she understands the opposition’s refusal to vote for a president without a limited mandate.

“I think a time limit is important. It is crucial to have goals and a plan – we all know how planning goes when it is open-ended and without a deadline. Initially, this assembly was created to rewrite the constitution in one year,” said Jemaa.

After January 14th, many Tunisians have developed a skepticism about any poltical decision and a lack of trust in the government. Only the coming days will tell if Marzouki will be able to restore people’s trust in the government and live up to their expectations.

Article written in collaboration with Sana Ajmi

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    “Only the coming days will tell if Marzouki will regain the trust of his people and live up to their expectations.”

    Regain the trust? when did he lose it. when was it even put to a test. He has been president for only a few hours. If he really has “lost the peoples trust” then he clearly needs bigger glasses and should be careful where he puts things

    • lol…nice one. The reporters on this website come up with some very weird statements. Unfortunately it’s more likely than not to be ready by westerners than Tunisians, giving of the wrong impression about Tunisia.

  1. lol…nice one. The reporters on this website come up with some very weird statements. Unfortunately it’s more likely than not to be read by westerners than Tunisians, giving of the wrong impression about Tunisia.

  2. Come on, the website is doing a good job and it is good that an English website is available informing the wider public about Tunisia, it’s politics and society.

    Although I agree with his presidency the criticism about the lack of a limited mandate is valid. Nevertheless Marzouki is the best candidate available and one who is acceptable to many Tunisians, from the left to the right of the political arena. He is generally considered as someone who Tunisians trust (“son of the people” as his nickname goes), seen as a sincere and honest man who understands Tunisian society and knows what Tunisians expect of him. As mentioned in the article as well, what did the opposition had to offer then?

    I agree that the last sentence of the article seems as if Marzouki “lost the trust of Tunisians” whereas this is not the case. I think/know that in general many Tunisians do not have any problem with his presidency. As he knows as well Tunisians are now waiting to see actual changes in their daily life, starting with employment and attracting investors.

    • Yeah I’m very happy with this website because it’s the only one were I can read news about Tunisia in English. It certainly has some very good articles. Just sometime they have some funny statements. I feel they are not very impartial. Let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

  3. Whats with the ripples and waves about this new president of ours. Why so many people are putting him down and are quick to write him off. Oh i know why, Its because dude is not an aristocrat from the “chosen ones” with a dark skin and proud of his humble roots. Bugger off ya band of pansy racist self centered bastards. Tunisia has never had a truly democratically elected president besides this guy. Marzouki has a lot of potentials and represent the entirety of us not the usual selected group.

    Give the man a chance for the love of god and start treating your fellow Tunisian as equals not lesser. Just because they talk with the ” galli ou goutlek” or are from Beja,Touzeur or Gasrine, doesn’t give you the right to look down on or take advantage of them.

  4. Dear all,

    Thank you for your feedback. The linguistic discrepancy re: Marzouki’s ability to restore people’s trust has been amended to convey the intended meaning of the statement.

    Editor in Chief