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Essebsi Sworn In as Tunisian President

Newly elected Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi gives a press conference in Tunis, Dec. 24, 2014.

Beji Caid Essebsi has been sworn in as Tunisia's new president, becoming the country's first freely elected leader since it gained independence from France in 1956.

Essebsi took the oath of office Wednesday at a ceremony in the parliament where his secular Nidaa Tounes party won the most seats in an October election.

The 88-year-old president won a runoff election this month, defeating incumbent Moncef Marzouki, who had served as Tunisia's interim president since the 2011 ouster of longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Essebsi has pledged to move forward with a united Tunisia and said he hopes his election marks the start of a new future for the country.

He previously served as prime minister in Ben Ali's administration and as an foreign minister to Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba.