On 23 November 2014, the Tunisians went to the polls to vote for a new president, the first to be elected by universal suffrage and under the new constitution approved in January of 2014.
Essebsi, leader of the secularist party Nidaa Tounes took 39,46% of the vote, with Moncef Marzouki, leader of the Congress for the Republic and outgoing president, coming in second place with 33.43% of the vote. The two men did not gain enough votes to prevent a runoff which was held on 21 December 2014. Former Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi won the run-off vote with 55.68 percent of the vote while rival and incumbent Moncef Marzouki secured just 44.32%.
Former Interior Minister Habib Essid, leader of the secular party Nidaa Tounes, was appointed Prime Minister and charged with forming a new government. The new Prime Minister had served in a variety of government positions under the autocratic President Ben Ali, and took office as Interior Minister after the revolution of 2011.
On 2 February, after weeks of negotiations, Prime Minister Tunisian Habib Essid presented the new government. Essid had previously attempted to present a coalition on 23 January, but after a long process of negotiations and consultations with the political parties, he had to present a revised formation which included the moderate Islamist party Ennahda Movement. A broad coalition was essential in order to pass a parliamentary vote. Last 4 February PM Essid succeeded in gaining the vote of confidence with a majority of 166 votes out of 204. He promised quick reforms to stimulate growth. He also said that he would fight speculation.
Among the priorities of the new government is also a fierce crackdown on terrorism and organized crime. In the new government, Nidaa Tounes, holds six portfolios including the Foreign Ministry led by the secretary of the party, el Tayib el Bakush, while the Interior, Defence and Justice portfolios have gone to independents: Nejem Gharsalli, Farhat Horchani (a law professor at the political science department of the University of Tunis), and Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa. Ennahda takes the Labour ministry and three secretary of state posts. Besides Nidaa (86 seats) and Ennahda (69), the government team also includes ministries of the other two parties: the Free Patriotic Union, which holds16 seats and the liberal party “Afek Tunis” (“Horizons of Tunisia”), which holds 8 seats. In short, the new government enjoys the support of a comfortable enough majority (179 seats in total) to surpass the number needed for a confirmation vote (109 out of a 217 member parliament.)
According to the ‘Economist’, the ideals of the Arab Spring seem to have been buried by violence and extremism in almost all the countries involved, with the sole exception of Tunisia, a country which has overcome the challenge of a dialogue between secularists and Islamists. The Tunisians chose an enlightened Constitution (the best in the region), and despite the country’s economic crisis and a fragile political system, they chose to follow the path of pragmatism being aware that, hic et nunc, compromise is the only possible revolution. (M.B.)