Tunisia airs first ‘great debate’ ahead of presidential poll

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Days before the first round of Tunisia’s presidential election, the fledgling democracy presented the first of three nights of televised debates between the candidates on Saturday, a rarity in the Arab world.

The showdown between the 26 hopefuls over three nights is seen as the highlight of the campaign and a turning point in Tunisian politics ahead of the vote, set to be held a week from Sunday.

France 24 reports that “The road to Carthage: Tunisia makes its choice”, the programme was broadcast on 11 TV channels, two of them public, and about 20 radio stations around the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring movement.

The first hour-and-a-half debate on Saturday night involved eight of the candidates, including Abdelfattah Mourou of the Islamist-inspired Ennahda party and secularist Abir Moussi, who heads a group with roots in the party of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. There was also an empty space left open for controversial media mogul Nabil Karoui, who is currently detained on money laundering charges.

The questions were set by the journalists and randomly selected and allocated to candidates on Friday. Each candidate had 90 seconds to respond and could be asked a follow-up question or interrupted.

At the end of the show, candidates were given 99 seconds to outline their manifestos and campaign promises.

Tunisia has since been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition.

Via France 24

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