Tunisia: Another political rival of Kais Saied eliminated from presidential race

Tunisia: Another political rival of Kais Saied eliminated from presidential race

The leader of Tunisian Republican Union Party, Lotfi Mraihi, who has announced his intention to run for President in the elections of October 2024, has been arrested by police on suspicion of money laundering.

Mraihi is one of the most prominent critics of President Kais Saied who is tightening his grip on power and eliminating opposition opponents by exploiting the justice system and branding journalists critical of his autocratic rule as “foreign agents”.

According to the local Mosaique radio, the security forces arrested Lotfi Mraihi over suspicion of money laundering, smuggling of assets outside the country, and opening bank accounts outside Tunisia without a permit from the Central Bank.

In April, Mraihi announced his intention to run for President in Tunisia’s upcoming elections, deploring “the deteriorating social and economic situation” in his country.

On Tuesday, President Kais Saied announced that Tunisia will hold a presidential election on October 6. Like Algerian president Abdelmajid Teboune, he did not say whether he would stand for another term.

In April, the National Salvation Front, the major opposition coalition in Tunisia, said it would not participate in the presidential elections, citing the absence of conditions of competition and the imprisonment of political opponents.

The opposition boycotted the December 2022 parliamentary elections and the local municipal elections last December and early this year. Abir Moussi, the leader of the Free Constitutional Party and a prominent candidate, has been in prison since last year on charges of harming public security.

Other candidates including Safi Saeed, Nizar Chaari and Abd Ellatif Mekki are facing prosecution for alleged crimes such as fraud and money laundering. Mondher Znaidi, a prominent potential candidate who is living in France, is also facing prosecution on suspicion of financial corruption.

President Kais Saied, elected in 2019, granted himself extraordinary powers in July 2021, then dissolved the Parliament and drafted a tailor-made constitution that Tunisia adopted a year later via referendum.

Since his power grab, Saied largely undermined the independence of the judiciary in an effort to subjugate judges and prosecutors to the executive branch. The authorities have escalated their crackdown on political opponents and perceived critics for their peaceful activism or public criticism of the president, the security forces, or other officials. They have stepped-up arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and prosecutions, sometimes in military courts. Police occasionally used excessive force against demonstrators.


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