Tunisia’s electoral commission is calling for the country’s jailed presidential candidate to be allowed televised interviews so he can communicate with voters before the October 13 runoff election.
The 56-year-old Nabil Karoui, co-owner of the private TV station Nessma TV, is facing off against 61-year-old conservative law professor Kais Said to become the North African nation's next leader. The presidential election was held early due to the death in office in July of President Beji Caid Essebsi.
Karoui, who came second behind Said, was jailed on August 23 pending an investigation into alleged money laundering and tax evasion charges. He was allowed to remain in the race because he has not been convicted. He says the charges are politically motivated.
The head of the electoral commission, Nabil Bafoun, on Wednesday said he was in contact with national judicial officials as well as the judge in Karoui’s case, who has ruled against freeing the candidate.
He said he is reminding them that both presidential hopefuls deserve “equal opportunities” for a democratic election.
The electoral commission has said Karoui can compete in the runoff unless he is convicted, though there seems little chance of an imminent verdict.
If he wins election, it is unclear if he could be sworn into office in prison instead of the parliament chamber, or if the immunity the constitution gives presidents would apply to crimes not yet tried in court.
A parliamentary election, in which Karoui’s Heart of Tunisia party is running, will take place on Sunday. The biggest party in parliament can shape the choice of prime minister and the formation of a government.