Anti-Islamist Beji Caid Essebsi, 88, was sworn in as Tunisia’s first freely elected president on Wednesday, four years after an uprising that triggered the Arab Spring.
The election of Essebsi, a veteran of previous regimes, is seen as a landmark for the North African nation, where longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in 2011.
Essebsi’s victory over outgoing president Moncef Marzouki capped Tunisia’s sometimes troubled transition to democracy and has won praise from Western leaders.
Essebsi told parliament after a swearing-in ceremony that he would be “the president of all Tunisians” and “the guarantor of national unity”.
“There is no future for Tunisia without consensus among political parties and members of civil society,” he said. “There is no future for Tunisia without national reconciliation.”
Marzouki, an exiled human rights activist during Ben Ali’s rule, was elected president at the end of 2011 by an interim assembly under a coalition deal with the then-ruling moderate Islamist movement Ennahda.
Following independence from France in 1956, Essebsi became an adviser to the country’s founding father and first president, Habib Bourguiba, holding a number of key jobs.
Opponents have accused Essebsi of seeking a return to the era of Ben Ali, who clung to power for 23 years, combining authoritarian rule with a degree of prosperity and stability for his people. Tunisian newspapers, meanwile, urged the new leadership to uphold the dreams of the revolution.