Earlier than the presidential election in Tunisia: the candidate Karoui launched


Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui was welcomed as a hero on Wednesday night when he was released from prison, a four-day dramatic coup in the second round against independent lawyer Kais Saied.

The release eclipsed the expected publication of Sunday’s legislative results, which should confirm a fragmented parliament, with a half-hearted victory of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

Dressed in black, Mr. Karoui left in the evening the prison of Mornaguia, 20 km from Tunis, surrounded by many members of the police, repelling a compact crowd wanting to approach. His supporters carried him on their shoulders before he left the scene, in black Mercedes, without making a statement.

Businessman and media, Mr. Karoui had been detained since 23 August – ten days before the start of the campaign for the first round of the presidential election – an arrest he described as political.

The Court of Cassation decided Wednesday to release Karoui, who remains charged with tax evasion and money laundering.

“The warrant of arrest against Nabil Karoui is canceled, the investigation continues, but it is free,” said one of his lawyers, Mr. Nazih Souei.

All of the release applications had so far been rejected, and Karoui’s lawyers filed an appeal on Tuesday to demand that Sunday’s vote be postponed until he can get out of jail to campaign.

Mr. Karoui had 15.58% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, behind the lawyer Kais Saied, 18.4%.

Parliament fragmented
The party founded by Mr. Karoui six months ago, Qalb Tounes, will be the second in Sunday’s elections.

The first estimates of the results of the legislative converge towards a clear advance of the Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, which should be responsible for forming the government, a complicated task given the fragmentation of Parliament.

The dealings between the parties started as soon as Sunday night polls were published, giving the measure of the scattering of votes for these legislative wedges between two rounds of the presidential election.

With some 50 seats out of the 217 in the Assembly of People’s Representatives, Ennahdha should remain the main party in Parliament.

But it is far from the 89 seats obtained in 2011, and 68 in the outgoing Assembly. In addition, unlike 2014, given the fragmentation of forces, it will be difficult to find a strong partner to form a coalition government, requiring 109 votes.

Wedding ring games
His rival Qalb Tounes (“Heart of Tunisia”) is given second. Remains to know the strength of this party based around the person of Mr. Karoui. Will the party “survive for a long time or will it be victim of its contradictions”, questions the ex-deputy Sélim Ben Abdesselem.

The Social Democrat Party Attayar (“Courant Democrat”) and the Islamo-populist movement Karama have each obtained about 20 seats. The following ones would hold less than 20 seats each.

To reach a majority, Ennahdha will have to make concessions. Questions are well over a possible alliance with Qalb Tounes, despite his promises not to ally with them.

The solution of a government of technocrats is also evoked by many political commentators, especially since Ennahdha has kept a burning memory of the failure of his first experience at the head of a government in 2011-13.

For the Tunisian daily La Presse, “the possibility of seeing all attempts to form the next government fail” is not to be ruled out.

But “the parties have no interest in going to early elections,” said Selim Kharrat, the NGO Al Bawsala, betting that “they will win in pragmatism”.

For Ben Abdesselem, in the absence of a comfortable majority to legislate, “the scenario of early elections in four to six months is not to be ruled out”.

“Political instability may increase the wait-and-see attitude of Tunisia’s partners,” warns Ben Abdesselem, while Tunisia is on a drip from the International Monetary Fund, which granted a loan of 2.4 billion euros in 2016. euros over four years.



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