Tunisia’s new president takes oath of office
Kais Saied was sworn in as Tunisia’s new president on October 23.
Saied, who is Tunisia’s seventh president since independence and the country’s second democratically elected leader by universal suffrage since the 2011 uprising, comes to office with a clear popular mandate, having been elected with more than 72% of the vote.
The new leader embodies the yearning of the population for a break with the lacklustre performance of its political elite during the past eight years.
Most of the economic reform responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of the next head of the yet-to-be-formed government but Saied’s popular mandate should allow him to influence change in the small North African nation beyond the limits of his constitutionally ordained prerogatives.
Considering his belief that Tunisia’s problems are essentially socio-economic, he is likely to look for ways to improve the economic situation. The rate of joblessness — up to 30% among university graduates — and GDP growth — slightly more than 1% this year — cannot guarantee the economic recovery the country needs to meet the demands of its youthful population.
Tunisia’s ability to mobilise foreign loans and to pursue big-spending policies is stretched to the limit. The country needs to return to work. Saied’s grace period will allow him to impulse the new self-reliant mood driving many of his countrymen. The tasks ahead might be daunting but signs of a new volunteering spirit in local communities offer reason for hope.
Furthermore, the new Tunisian head of state has, within his prerogatives, the responsibility of bolstering ties with the country’s friends and partners in the region and the world. International support will be crucial for Tunisia’s economic recovery, its fight against terrorism and ultimately the success of its democratic experience.