In a surprise move, Tunisian authorities released Nabil Karoui - one of the two candidates for the upcoming presidential elections - from jail. His release has intensified the campaigns for the election which is due to take place on Sunday.
The competition for Tunisia’s upcoming presidential elections, whose final round is due to take place on Sunday, continue to intensify. The latest twist in the run-up to the elections is the release Nabil Karoui from jail. Tunisian authorities had announced last week that they would not release Karoui who was jailed on accusations of tax evasion. Although he remains under investigation, the decision to release business tycoon has galvanised his supporters and the opposition to his rival, Qais Saied who is running on an independent platform but has since been backed by the Ennahda Party.
Following his release, Karoui’s first course of action was to attack the Ennahda Party, accusing them of trying to seize the opportunity for presidency from him and imprisoning him in hopes of making him drop from elections. Saied, who had supported Karoui’s release, has not commented on these accusations and continued campaigning as usual. The two candidates are expected to face off on Friday evening at a televised debate.
International observers and experts have remarked that the upcoming elections – which were due to take place on November but have been pulled forward following the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi – have shown that Tunisia’s electoral institutions are maturing, noting that they have been able to handle the many challenges well. Although the percentage of voters who participated in the first round of presidential elections were lower compared to past years, experts tie this to election fatigue rather than a loss of faith in the system. Indeed, experts noted that the fact that two independent candidates have emerged as the front-runners shows that people are willing to express their unhappiness about the current political establishment via the electoral process.
Indeed, highlighting the dissatisfaction of the Tunisian people with the current parties, both Karoui and Saied ran on a platform focusing on law, order, anti-corruption and economic improvement. Observers have expressed doubt whether they can achieve these goals, given the largely-ceremonial role of the Tunisian President. However, their platforms have clearly struck a chord with their audiences.
For those sitting on the fence, Friday’s debate will likely be the point they made a decision about which candidate to support. Whatever the outcome may be, the relatively orderly and unimpeded election process the country has experienced despite less-than-ideal conditions is something all Tunisians can be proud of.