For the first time in Tunisia’s history and in the Arab world at large, candidates for the snap September 15 presidential elections took part Saturday and Sunday in the first ever televised debate called “The road to Carthage: Tunisia makes its choice”.
After the first TV debate between nine presidential contenders aired Saturday, nine more presidential candidates sought on Sunday evening to attract voters at the second TV debate.
During the two-hour Road to Carthage debate, contenders answered questions in connection to issues of national interest, namely security, smuggling, parallel trade, money laundering, illegal immigration, international relations, etc, reported the official news agency TAP.
The participants in the Sunday debate are Mongi Rahoui (Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party); Elyes Fakhfakh (Ettakatol); Mohamed Hachemi Hamdi (Tayar Al-Mahabba); Abdelkarim Zbidi (independent); Mohamed Seghaïer Nouri (independent); Hamadi Jebali (independent); Lotfi Mraïhi (Republican Popular Union); Hatem Boulabiar (independent); and Mohsen Marzouk (Machrou Tounes).
The first debate aired on Saturday involved eight candidates, namely Omar Mansour (independent); Mohamed Abbou (El Tayar); Abir Moussi (Free Destourian Party); Néji Jalloul (independent); Mehdi Jomaa (Al Badil); Moncef Marzouki (El Harak); Abid Briki (Tunisia Forward movement); and Abdelfattah Mourou (Ennahdha).
Media mogul Nabil Karoui of Heart of Tunisia was the ninth candidate in the debate but his spot was left empty as he is detained for alleged money laundering. The electoral commission has indicated that the businessman is qualified to run for the elections until proven guilty.
From his detention, Karoui who launched his campaign last week, criticized authorities from preventing him to attend the debate.
“Tonight I am deprived of my constitutional right to express myself in front of the Tunisian people,” Karoui wrote on Twitter.
“They dare to speak of democratic and transparent elections despite the absence of the basic principle of equal opportunities.”
The TV debate, which aroused much interest among Tunisians, is intended to help voters select a candidate on September 15, says TAP.
A third debate is scheduled this Monday September 9 and will bring together more presidential candidates, in line with a draw conducted late August.
This debate, the first of its kind in Tunisia and the Arab world, is initiated by the Independent High Authority for Elections (French: ISIE), al Wataniya tv channel and the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (French: HAICA) with the support of NGO Mounadhara. It is broadcast on eleven TV channels and some twenty radio stations.
Twenty-six candidates are seeking the presidential seat after President Beji Caid Essebsi died late July while in office.