On Wednesday evening, December the 14th, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia’s new president, welcomed two journalists from the National Tunisian TV channel to conduct an interview which lasted nearly an hour. With his recognizably frisky, affectionate, high-spirited, and sometimes amusing demeanor, Marzouki issued a number of promising messages to the Tunisian people.
The presidential palace was once a space off-limits to the media during Ben Ali’s era. Conversely, it was used as a luxurious venue for welcoming VIPs and privileged relatives. For Marzouki, opening the palace’s gates to both the media and the opposition parties was the fulfillment of his promise: “To be a president for all Tunisians,” a statement he issued in his first speech last Tuesday.
When asked about how he wished to respond to critics claims that his position lacks tangible influence in affecting the country’s politics, Marzouki affirmed that the entitlements of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches would never again be under the centralized control of a single leader. He asserted that political decisions will be made in agreement with of the head of the assembly, the president, and the prime minister.
Concerning his relationship with the current prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, Marzouki said: “We’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.”
Marzouki emphasized that Tunisians should no longer refer to the country’s current phase as a transitional period, but rather as a constructive phase. He also stated that one and a half years would be a sufficient period to establish the foundation for a second constructive phase.
Concerning the initial measures Marzouki’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 political issue has been settled with the formation of the new government. However, we still need to concert tremendous efforts in dealing with the social, economic, and security issues. “
Marzouki expressed his grief over the deep economic and social crisis which Tunisia 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 don’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%, and pervasive unemployment has impelled many Tunisian citizens to 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 to Libya, which is to take place in few days. In light of escalating tensions related to border security, the objective of his trip will be to reinforce economic and security-related cooperation between the neighboring countries.
“We 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,” Marzouki said.
Before giving his concluding statement, the Tunisian president called upon Tunisians to observe a six-month-political and social truce to give the new government a chance to pull the country out of the difficult 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.