France backs Tunisian electoral process ahead of vote

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian voiced support on Sunday for Tunisia’s political process a week before the country is to choose a new president in a snap election.

“The democratic transition is taking place properly in Tunisia,” Le Drian told French radio stations.

The election was set for September 15 after former president Beji Caid Essebsi died on July 25.

Twenty-six candidates are vying for office in the first round of voting.

“It is a young democracy, its constitution was drawn up recently,” Le Drian noted.

He added that Tunisia also initiated the so-called Arab Spring of popular uprisings in late 2010 and emphasized that it was “a spring that has continued down a democratic path.”

Essebsi’s death “speeded up the calendar but the process continues, let us respect that,” the foreign minister said.

Le Drian declined to weigh in on the case of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, who was arrested on August 23 but who is running for the nation’s highest office.

“I respect Tunisian justice and the Tunisian constitution and I hope the democratic transition occurs in the best possible way,” Le Drian said.

Officials in the North African country have been investigating Karoui for three years on suspicion of money laundering. He denies the allegations.

Meanwhile, Karoui’s wife and activists from his Heart of Tunisia party have hit the campaign trail on his behalf.