Tunisian parties pick rights activist as president

November 15, 2011 - 4:00 PM

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A veteran human rights activist was selected as Tunisia's new interim president on Tuesday, said a party official.

Moncef Marzouki, the head of the Congress for the Republic, will take on the role for the next year while a new constitution is being written, according to an official close to the party.

The agreement was reached between Ennahda, the Islamist Party that won 89 of 217 seats in the new assembly in the Oct. 23 elections and the CPR, which came second with 29 seats, the official added.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations.

Marzouki, a physician who headed the Tunisian League of Human Rights, was once jailed for four months in 1994 for attempting to run for president against long-serving dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown by a popular uprising in January.

The Tunisian uprising inspired similar pro-democracy movements elsewhere around the region, setting off what has been called the Arab Spring in the Middle East

The left of center Ettakatol, the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties — which finished third, had been pushing for its leader Mustapha Ben Jaafar to become president, but negotiations had ended in deadlock.

Ben Jaafar has instead been offered the job of president of the new assembly, but Ettakatol has yet to agree, according to Khalil Zaouia, a member of the party's political bureau.

The assembly, which will write the fledgling democracy's new constitution and appoint an interim government, will hold it's inaugural meeting on Nov. 22.