Tunisia's new parliament has opened its inaugural session — the first permanent institution to begin work nearly four years after autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled.

The president of the outgoing interim assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaffar, told the 217-seat body on Tuesday that Tunisia "faces a new test on the road to democracy." The parliament's mandate is five years.

The secular Nida Tounes party won recent legislative elections by gaining 86 seats. It will be charged with naming a new prime minister after the final round of the presidential vote in December, in which Nida Tounes' leader will face off current President Moncef Marzouki.

This North African nation triggered the Arab Spring and is in a slow process of ensuring a largely peaceful transition.