Published: October 12, 2019
Tunisian Presidential Hopefuls Spar in Televised Debate ahead of Sunday Vote
Tycoon Nabil Karoui and professor Kais Saied are competing in a runoff presidential election on Sunday. (Reuters)
A media mogul and a former law professor who are vying to be Tunisia's next president sparred during a televised debate over how to fight terrorism and poverty.
Then the two candidates cordially shook hands, an act Tunisian voters are celebrating as a sign that the democracy built on their country's 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising is on the right track.
Tycoon Nabil Karoui and professor Kais Saied are competing in a runoff presidential election on Sunday. Neither has held political office before.
Karoui promised during Friday night's debate to combat extremist acts by tackling poverty. He said he would pursue investments from companies like Google and Netflix.
Saied promised to give struggling provinces and young people more power.
Both men said Tunisia should work to bring peace to neighboring Libya.
Throughout, Karoui appeared relaxed but occasionally hesitant, and speaking in Tunisian dialect he stuck to his key themes -- fighting poverty and economic liberalism.
Saied, serious but at ease, defended decentralization of power and criticized the partisan system, delivering his answers in classical Arabic.
The runoff outcome is still uncertain, though Karoui received a boost with his newly formed party, Qalb Tounes, coming in second in the October 6 legislative elections.
Karoui and Saied had both come out on top in the September 15 first round on anti-establishment platforms in a country grappling with a stagnant economy, high unemployment, failing public services and rising prices.