Tunisia presidential hopefuls line up for September polls

AFP , Friday 2 Aug 2019

President of Tunisia's independent electoral committee (ISIE) Nabil Baffoun (C) attends a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia July 30, 2019 REUTERS

Presidential hopefuls in Tunisia began registering their candidacies on Friday for snap September polls called after the death of 92-year-old leader Beji Caid Essebsi.

Eight would-be candidates, including media magnate Nabil Karoui, submitted their papers to the North African country's electoral commission.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has not yet officially registered, although his party said on Wednesday he would stand in the polls.

Originally scheduled for November, the vote was brought forward to September 15 following Essebsi's death in late July.

Karoui was charged with money laundering this month after stating his intention to stand in the polls.

He was nearly removed from the race in June when the parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any electoral candidate who handed out "favours in cash or in kind" in the year before the vote.

But Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.

The media mogul was an active supporter of Essebsi's election in 2014 and has become the prime minister's fiercest rival.

Chahed, who studied agricultural engineering, entered politics after the 2011 uprising which ousted autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Launched at the start of the year, his Tahia Tounes has become the second largest party in parliament, behind Islamist-inspired Ennahdha.

Longtime Ben Ali opponent and head of Tunisia's Democratic Current party Mohamed Abbou also submitted his candidacy on Friday.

He was joined by Abir Moussi, the only women so far running in the polls.

She heads a party formed from the remnants of Ben Ali's ruling party and has called for the exclusion of Islamists, including Ennahdha.

Presidential hopefuls have until August 9 to register, with the commission set to provide a final list of candidates on August 31.

The campaigns are scheduled to run from September 2 to September 13, with the preliminary results announced two days after the polls.

A date for the second round of presidential elections has not yet been decided, but the electoral commission said it would be held no later than November 3.

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