Tunisia the last of the Arab Spring country that is still on a democratic track ended their presidential campaign on September 13. The first round of voting which will be pitting more than two dozen candidates against each other is scheduled for September 15. The jailed Nabil Karoui the leading candidate started a hunger strike earlier this week. Karoui is the owner of unlicensed Nessma TV channel which was the source to promote his political ambitions. He was detained in August on alleged suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering.
Nabil Karoui detention is a wild card in the long-running struggle for political supremacy in the young democracy. Since the country launched the Arab Spring in 2011, Karoui's appeal has been pitched against a sense of growing disillusionment with the country's main political leader and has failed to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. Karoui is depicted as Tunisia's equivalent of Silvio Berlusconi. However, he is reported to be the wealthy male head of the family in a Middle Eastern soap opera, the image he has depicted in Tunisian society.
Karoui has reportedly used his TV channel to air images of himself delivering aid from a family charity to the poor. The wealthy political elite, which he once backed now sees him as a threat. One of the main Karoui's rival is Youssef Chahed, the current Prime Minister. Karoui's supporters blame Chahed for putting Karoui behind the bars in an effort to win the elections. Karoui's supporters believe that the moves against him may have benefitted their candidate as the constant attacks on him on social media has kept Kaouri's name in the public eye.
The Presidential vote was due to take place later in the autumn but was abruptly brought forward after the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi. Although the role of president is supposed to be less important than the parliament and PM but Essebsi tried to gain more power and status to the role by presenting himself as a modern incarnation of the country founding father Habib Bourguiba. Tunisia’s economy has struggled since terrorist attacks in 2015 on two tourist sites, the resort of Sousse and the Bardo museum, in which 60 people were killed.