Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Campaigning for Tunisian presidential election begins

Election body releases shortlist of 26 eligible candidates, including jailed media magnate

Tunisia's electoral commission announces the final list of candidates for the presidential election in Tunis. AFP
Tunisia's electoral commission announces the final list of candidates for the presidential election in Tunis. AFP

Campaigning for Tunisia presidential election begins on Monday with 26 candidates still in race, including jailed media magnate Nabil Karoui.

Mr Karoui was arrested more than a week ago on accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, but was on the shortlist of eligible candidates released by the electoral authority on Saturday.

The electoral authority said he and another candidate accused of money laundering can run for president as long as they have not been convicted.

"The fact that the candidate Nabil Karoui is in jail is a concern but the electoral authority does not interfere in court cases, but at the same time strives to ensure the candidates all their rights," electoral commission president Nabil Baffoun said.

Before his arrest, Mr Karoui was considered a leading contender to replace centrist Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia's first democratically elected president.

Mr Essebsi died in office in July at the age of 92, throwing the country's politics into uncertainty.

His death resulted in the election being brought forward from November to September 15. Those with the most votes will advance to a second round two weeks later.

Other top candidates include Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Defence Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi and Parliamentary Speaker Abdelfattah Mourou.

Two women are on the list – former tourism minister Salma Elloumi and Abir Moussi, who leads a group from the remnants of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's party.

The election is considered a crucial test for Tunisia's fragile young democracy after the 2011 revolt that overthrew Mr Ben Ali's regime.

Tunisia has been praised for its democratic transition after the uprising but has struggled with repeated extremist attacks, inflation and high unemployment.

Overseas campaigning began on Saturday and will run from September 2 to 13 in Tunisia.

About 1.2 million Tunisians live overseas, mainly in Europe.

Mr Chahed launched his overseas campaign in the French city of Lyon on Saturday, where he cast himself as a human rights defender.

"We hope to speak with Tunisians to explain to them our vision for a stronger Tunisia, a more modern and developed Tunisia, and a Tunisia that truly believes in the universal values of human rights," he told AFP before a campaign meeting.

Updated: September 2, 2019 02:51 AM

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