Karoui Still Tunisia Presidential Candidate Despite Arrest

Saturday, 24 August, 2019 - 17:30
Asharq Al-Awsat

Tunisian media magnate Nabil Karoui will remain a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections despite his arrest on Friday on money laundering.

“As long as there are no changes in his legal status and no final verdict, Nabil Karoui remains a presidential candidate,” Nabil Baffoun, the head of the electoral commission, told reporters.

According to Baffoun, even candidacies of convicted individuals in Tunisia are accepted so long as the verdict against them does not specifically say they are banned from running in an election.

Police arrested Karoui after a court ordered his detention in a case involving charges of money laundering and tax evasion. His party, Qalb Tounes, said his detention was a politically motivated attempt to exclude him from the election race.

The party announced his arrest the same day that authorities declared a ban on three local outlets -- including Karoui's Nesma TV -- from reporting on the election campaign over unlicensed "illegal" broadcasts.

A government official rejected that accusation and said it was a judicial matter and nothing to do with the government. The electoral commission said Karoui was still in the race.

Karoui, 56, is one of the frontrunners contesting the September 15 election following the death last month of 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi - the first head of state to be democratically elected in Tunisia following the popular uprising of 2011.

Karoui’s main rival among the 26 candidates in the race is Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Other candidates include former president Moncef Marzouki and Abdel Fattah Mourou, vice president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

Tunisia’s president controls foreign and defense policy, governing alongside a prime minister chosen by parliament who has authority over domestic affairs.

Karoui founded the Khalil Tounes Foundation in 2017 to fight poverty, the main theme in his campaign.

In June, parliament passed an amendment to its electoral law which would have banned Karoui from running for president. The draft banned candidates who benefit from “charitable associations” or foreign funding during the year before an election.

But Essebsi had not signed the law before he died, allowing Karoui to run.

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