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Tunisia:last round of TV debates for presidential candidates

Few stand a chance to reach second round

09 September, 18:06

    TUNIS - The last of three televised debates between 26 candidates running for president in elections scheduled Sunday in Tunisia will air on television Monday night.

    The debate, to be broadcast by all networks, will see two journalists, a man and a woman, asking questions to the remaining candidates: Youssef Chahed, Kais Saied, Ahmed Safi Said, Hamma Hammami, Seifeddine Makhlouf, Said Aidi e Selma Elloumi, as well Slim Riahi who will not be present as he is on the run in France after he was accused of various fiscal charges.

    Last night the candidates to face off were Mongi Rahoui, Elyes Fakhfakh, Hechmi Hamdi, Abdelkrim Zbidi, Hamadi Jebali, Lotfi Mraihi, Hatem Boulabiar, Mohsen Marzouk and Mohamed Sghaier Nouri while the first round on Saturday night saw the participation of Amor Mansour, Mohamed Abbou, Abir Moussi, Néji Jalloul, Mehdi Joma, Moncef Marzouki, Abid Briki, Abdelfattah Mourou. Magnate Nabil Karoui, one of the top contenders according to surveys, was also not present as he has been in jail since August 23 on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

    Live televised debates with candidates are a new thing in Tunisia and the Arab world. The independent superior election board (Isie) is the guarantor of the rules of the debates, together with the independent high authority for audiovisual communication (Haica) and ''Munathara Initiative'', the Arab forum that promotes democracy.

    All candidates have the same amount of time to outline their programs and respond to questions that are selected in a lottery, on major themes including economy, security, terrorism, the Libyan crisis, democratic transition, which are key, as well as the fight against corruption and unemployment, gender equality and opening to the Western world.

    According to experts, the outcome of the vote is hard to predict. Among top contenders, according to the polls, are the controversial owner of Nessma Tv, the main private television network of the country and the leader of the Heart of Tunisia party, Nabil Karoui, the president of the Democratic Current, Mohamed Abbou, Abir Moussi for the Free Destourian Party, independent jurist Kais Saied, former defense minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, Premier Youssef Chahed and Ennhadha's number two, Abdelfattah Mourou.

    The prime minister over the last few weeks has delegated his role to the minister of the public administration until the end of the campaign. The electoral campaign of Nabil Karoui, who has been in jail since August 23 on money laundering and fiscal evasion charges, is being conducted by his wife Salwa Smaoui, the protagonist of crowded gatherings across the country.

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