By Samia Fitouri | Dec 15 2011government , Jebali , poverty line , President , presidential palace ,
On Wednesday evening, December the 14th, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia’s new president, welcomed two journalists from the National Tunisian TVÂ channel to conduct an interview which lasted nearly an hour.Â With hisÂ recognizably frisky, affectionate, high-spirited, and sometimes amusing demeanor, MarzoukiÂ issued a number of promising messages to the Tunisian people.
The presidential palaceÂ was once a spaceÂ off-limitsÂ to theÂ mediaÂ during Ben Aliâ€™s era.Â Conversely, it wasÂ used as aÂ luxuriousÂ venueÂ for welcoming VIPs and privileged relatives. For Marzouki,Â opening the palaceâ€™s gates to both theÂ media and the opposition partiesÂ was the fulfillment of his promise: “To be a president for all Tunisians,â€ a statement he issued in his first speech last Tuesday.
When asked aboutÂ how he wished toÂ respond to critics claimsÂ that his position lacks tangible influenceÂ in affecting the country’s politics, Marzouki affirmed that theÂ entitlementsÂ ofÂ the legislative, executive, and judicialÂ branches would never again beÂ under the centralized control ofÂ aÂ single leader.Â He asserted that political decisionsÂ will be made in agreement withÂ of the head of the assembly, the president, and the prime minister.
Concerning his relationship with the current prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, Marzouki said: â€œWeâ€™ve lived through a long history of struggle together. The first time we met, Jebali was sentenced to death. Although we have different ideologies, we can still effectively cooperate with each other.â€
Marzouki emphasized that Tunisians should no longerÂ refer toÂ the country’s current phase as aÂ transitional period,Â but rather as a constructive phase. He also stated that one andÂ a half years would be a sufficient period to establish the foundation for a second constructive phase.
Concerning theÂ initial measures Marzoukiâ€™s administration is expected to take, the president said: “Two fundamental issues seem to dominate our attention for the moment. We are happy that the politicalÂ issue has been settled with the formation of the new government. However, we still need toÂ concert tremendous efforts in dealing with the social, economic, and security issues. â€œ
Marzouki expressed his grief over the deep economic and social crisis which TunisiaÂ continues to endure: “I perfectly understand the impatience of hundreds of our deprived Tunisian citizens. 180,000 families in Tunisia are living below the poverty line, but everybody should recognize that we donâ€™t have a magic wand to solve such deep problems in the wink of an eye.”
The growth rate of the Tunisian economy remains at 0%, andÂ pervasive unemployment hasÂ impelled manyÂ Tunisian citizens toÂ take to the streets in protest of the lack of governmental intervention to alleviate their economic hardship.
Marzouki also announced that his first official trip as president would be toÂ Libya,Â which is to take place in few days. In light of escalating tensions related to border security, the objective of his tripÂ will be toÂ reinforce economic and security-related cooperation between the neighboring countries.
â€œWe should recognize that Tunisia has become a symbol for real and effective democratic transition. Thus, many countries are interested in cooperating with us – including our neighbor, Libya. We need them as they need us,â€ Marzouki said.
Before givingÂ his concluding statement, the Tunisian presidentÂ calledÂ uponÂ Tunisians to observe a six-month-political and social truce to give the new government a chance toÂ pullÂ the country out of the difficultÂ social, political, and economic situation it is enduring.
“Our patriotic duty is calling us to stop the strikes and sit-ins and start building our country anew. This is not the president speaking – this is a common Tunisian citizen who is much worried about his country’s future,” Marzouki concluded.