TUNIS - Marking a new breakthrough in the country's path towards democracy, Tunisia's opposition veteran Moncef Marzouki was sworn on Tuesday, December 13, as the country's first elected president since the north African nation's revolution sparked the Arab Spring.
"I will be the guarantor of the national interests, the state of laws and institutions," Marzouki said with his hand on the Qur'an as he took his oath before the constituent assembly, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
"I will be faithful to the martyrs and to the objectives of the revolution," he added.
Marzouki's swearing in marked almost a year after the start of the mass protests that ousted strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and sparked popular revolts that also toppled leaders in Egypt and Libya.
"Other nations are watching us as a laboratory of democracy," he said.
"The main challenge is to attain the revolution's goals."
Tunisia's constituent assembly on Monday elected Marzouki president a month and a half after legislative elections.
Marzouki was elected with 153 votes in the 217-member constituent assembly, with three of the 202 deputies present voting against, two abstaining and 44 opposition members casting blank ballots.
"I have the great honor of becoming the first president of the first free republic of the Arab world," the French-trained doctor told AFP after the vote and before going to take up residence in Ben Ali's old seaside presidential palace beside the Roman ruins at Carthage.
Marzouki, a doctor and human rights activist, is the head of the secular Congress for the Republic.
He headed the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LTDH) from 1989 until Ben Ali supporters forced him out in 1994.
An admirer of India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, he travelled to that country as well as South Africa after its transition from apartheid to democracy.
The veteran human rights campaigner spent 10 years in exile and was imprisoned for a few months when he tried to run against Ben Ali in 1994 elections.
Moving with tears, 66-year-old political veteran promised to be the "president of all Tunisians".
"Our mission is to promote our Arab-Muslim identity and be open to the world," he said, adding that he would safeguard health, education and women's rights.
To protect the veiled (women) and girls in niqab as well as those who aren't veiled.
Calling for national reconciliation, he also challenged the opposition "to participate in the nation's political life and not confine itself to a role of observer".
The appointment of Marzouki as the new president followed a power-sharing agreement with Islamic-leaning Ennahda party which won most votes in last month's election in Tunisia.
Ennahda won 89 of the seats in the 217-strong assembly, ahead of the 29 seats won by the left-wing nationalist Congress for the Republic party (CPR) and the 20 of the leftist liberal Ettakatol (Forum) party.
According to the deal worked out by the assembly's three main parties, Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda's second most senior figure, is set to be nominated as prime minister.
Moncef Marzouki , the head of the Congress for the Republic, the No. 2 vote getter, became president.
The leader of the left-center Ettakatol party will become speaker of the assembly.