Tunisia 'must give presidential candidates same chances'

Karoui in jail and Riahi in France excluded from TV debate

11 September, 17:32

    TUNIS - The final countdown has begun for the 26 candidates running for president in the elections that will be held on Sunday. About 8 million Tunisians are eligible to vote. Three days are left until the election campaign ends and it seems that only a few candidates have a serious possibility of arriving at the second round, including Nabil Karoui, Abdelkrim Zbibi, Youssef Chahed and Abdelfattah Mourou.

    The first televised debates proved a success and were watched by an average of 3 million viewers. The candidate and controversial media baron Nabil Karoui, who is still in the lead in the polls, has been in jail since August 23 for money laundering and tax evasion and was not able to engage in campaigning on the September 7 televised debate. This was stressed by the EU's election monitoring mission to Tunis, which on Tuesday congratulated the country on the holding of the debate but noted that Karoui had not been able to take part and urged the authorities to make sure that all the candidates would have equal opportunities in the election campaign.

    The Carter Center monitoring team also noted that Karoui's detention a week before the beginning of the election campaign on the basis of an ongoing investigation that was started in 2017 had increased speculation that the election process would be influenced by factors that are not entirely in line with the law. Karoui's lawyers have asked for their client to be interviewed by the private television station El Hiwar Ettounsi and was granted permission by the Tunisian election authority but not by the judiciary.

    The candidate and businessman Slim Riahi has also been accused of fiscal crimes and has fled to France, from which he has filed a complaint over not being able to take part in the televised debate.

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