Tunisian presidential candidate uncomfortable about rival in prison

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Tunisian presidential candidate Kais Saied is uncomfortable his rival, media tycoon Nabil Karoui, was still in prison almost three weeks before a presidential election run-off vote.

Former law professor Saied and Karoui won most votes in first round of the presidential election, beating veteran politicians in rejection of the forces that dominated since the 2011 revolution.

Karoui, a well-known but controversial figure, was detained weeks before the election in a tax evasion and money laundering case brought three years ago by an independent transparency watchdog.

He is owner of a major television news channel and founder of a large charity that serves Tunisia’s poor.

“The situation is uncomfortable for me and I hope he will be free, but the final word belongs to the judiciary,” Saied said in an interview with state television.

Karoui was unable to take part in televised debates before the vote and electoral monitors voiced concern voters will not have a chance to hear him campaign.

Saied said opportunities were not unequal between the candidates “Unlike others. I have no media to use, no television channels … I have not campaigned,” he said

Saied, little known before the election, is a constitutional law professor who ran a modest campaign with next to no publicity or funding, espousing conservative social views and pushing for a return to the principles of the 2011 uprising.

Tunisia’s largest political party, moderate Islamist Ennahda, will back Saied. Several losing conservative candidates, including former President Moncef Marzouki, support Saied. No losing candidates have endorsed Karoui.

A Karoui victory in the second round on October 13 could raise legal and constitutional questions given he is detained awaiting a verdict.