Tunisian presidential candidates' TV debate to be held

First for country and Arab world, voting on 15/9

29 August, 18:06

    Tunisian TV magnate Nail Karoui Tunisian TV magnate Nail Karoui

    TUNIS - For the first time in country and the Arab world, the 30 candidates for the Tunisian presidential elections will be able to face off live on television during three debates broadcast on unified networks on two national channels and seven private ones. How the debates will be held was announced at a press conference in Tunis on Thursday by the directors of the national television station, the heads of the unions for private radio and television, the high commission for independent elections ISIE, the high independent authority for audiovisual communication HAICA, and the Munathara Initiative, an open Arab forum that aims to promote democracy. ''The aim is to enable voters to get a clearer idea of each candidate,'' the head of the national broadcaster Wataniya, Lassaad Dahech, said.

    The three debates will each last two and half hours and will be held in the second week of the election campaign, starting on September 2. All the candidates will be granted the same amount of time to talk and illustrate their programs. There will be translation with sign language for the deaf. Candidates will also have to answer questions that are drawn at random through a mechanism overseen by ISIE, HAICA and a notary. The questions will be on three broad issues, in line with the principle of ''equal chances among candidates''. ''The organising of debates, for the first time in the country, aims to strengthen democracy in Tunisia,'' said the founder of the Munathara NGO, Belabbed Benkerida.

    Two journalists will be moderating the debates, one from the public broadcaster and another from privately owned media. The candidates will have 48 hours to accept an invitation to take part in the debate. In the second round, the debate will be between the two final candidates and will be held a few days before voting. Some 30 candidates are in the running.

    The vote will be the second election with universal suffrage in the history of Tunisia, after one in 2014 that was won by Beji Caid Essebsi.

    One of the most popular candidates according to the polls, TV magnate Nail Karoui, has been in jail since Friday on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

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