Ten days after his victory in the presidential election, constitutionalist Kaïs Saïed was sworn in on Wednesday, October 23, at 11:00 am (Paris time) as the new president of the Republic of Tunisia. Widely elected with 72.71% of votes in the second round, this academic with austere personality and mechanical diction remains an enigma.

Fiercely anti-Israeli

Born on February 22nd, 1958 in a family originating from Beni Khiar on the east coast of Tunisia, son of an official of the municipality and a mother educated but remained at home, he grew up in Rades, suburb of the middle class in the south of Tunis. He does all his studies in Tunisian public education.

Fiercely anti-Israeli, however, he stressed his pride that his father has, in his words, protected from the Nazis the young Tunisian Jewess Gisele Halimi, now famous feminist lawyer.

Kaïs Saïed graduated from a prestigious public institution, Sadiki College, like many presidents before him: the father of independence, Habib Bourguiba, President Moncef Marzouki (2011-2014) and the first president elected by universal suffrage. 2014, the late Beji Caid Essebsi.

Graduated at the age of 28 at the International Academy of Constitutional Law in Tunis, he was assistant professor in Sousse (center-east), where he briefly headed a public law department. From 1999 until 2018, he teaches at the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences of Tunis.

A specialist in constitutional law, he retired from public university in 2018.

Nicknamed "teacher" by his followers, "Robocop" by others

Some of his followers still respectfully call him "professor", even though the man has published only few books and has no doctorate. Father of two daughters and a boy, he is married to a judge, who only appeared with him at the last days of the campaign.

Nicknamed "Robocop" because of his jerky diction and his impassive face, he is described by several students as a devoted teacher, attentive behind his apparent rigidity. "He could spend hours outside of class to explain the point or make the grade of an exam," one of them testifies on Twitter.

It was a "serious teacher, sometimes theatrical, but always available and listening," abounds Nessim Ben Gharbia, a Tunisian journalist who attended classes between September 2011 and June 2012.

He also knew the subordinate employees of his university by their first name, hearing from a sick relative or a child, recalls an AFP journalist who interviewed him in 2014.

In its core of supporters are many former students. But also idealists, met in 2011 at the sit-in Kasbah 1, a movement of young people and activists determined to reorient the democratic transition that began after the departure of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

>> To read: Kaïs Saïed, a conservative candidate who claims his independence

The general public knows above all Kaïs Saïd for having heard it commented cleverly, on the plateaux of the principal television channels, the first steps of the Tunisian democracy, during the drafting of the Constitution adopted in 2014.

The debates have flourished in recent weeks to better understand the beliefs of this austere character, until then poorly known, even political commentators.

Accused of being fundamentalist or leftist, he is described as inflexible on his principles.

Mr. "Clean"

Many videos have emerged since his qualification in the second round, showing a man of unfailing placidity, carrying since 2011 the same vision of a radical decentralization of power.

This neophyte in politics broke into the polls in the spring, carried by a fed up of the political class. Considered impeccably "clean", he lives in a middle-class neighborhood, and his headquarters are housed in a decrepit downtown apartment, where smoking is sitting on plastic chairs.

His socially conservative positions, which he is far from being the only one to have in the political class, have earned him accusations of fundamentalism. But his political speech is not supported by religious references.

His confident looks and eloquence put him in a good position in the televised face-to-face with rival Nabil Karoui on Friday.

His first challenge will be to expand the small circle of his collaborators, currently composed of a handful of passionate supporters, but without experience of power, claiming a horizontal organization. His brother Naoufel was a pillar of his campaign, but Kaïs Saïed assured in a televised debate on Friday that he would never "hire" a member of his family.

With AFP and Reuters