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Kais Saied and Nabil Karoui to face off in Tunisia’s runoff election

Kais Saied advances to the next round with 18.85 of votes, while Nabil Kaorui advances second with 15.7% of votes cast

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Kais Saied and Nabil Karoui to face off in Tunisia's runoff election
A screen displays Kais Saied and Nabil Karoui as Nabil Bafon (not seen), the chairman of the Independent High Elections Commission of Tunisia, holds a press conference at the Conference Palace in the Tunisian capital Tunis on September 17, 2019. Kais Saied and Nabil Karoui will face off in the second round of Tunisia's presidential election, state election authorities said on Tuesday. According to official results released by the Independent High Electoral Commission, Saied led with 18.4% of the vote while Nabil Karoui had 15.6%. Yassine Gaidi / AFP

Tunisia’s electoral commission confirmed on Tuesday that a presidential runoff vote will pit law professor Kais Saied against detained media mogul Nabil Karoui.

The result from Sunday’s vote, thrusting two political outsiders to the fore, was a shock to a political establishment in place since the 2011 fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Saied led the first round of polling on Sunday with 18.4 per cent of the vote against Karoui’s 15.6 per cent, taking both through to an October runoff, said the electoral commission, ISIE.

It said turnout reached 49 per cent in Sunday’s election, markedly down from the 64 per cent at the country’s first free presidential poll in 2014.

The two candidates — though very different — have drawn on the same “anti-system” sentiment among the electorate, spurred by exasperation with the status quo.

Unemployment plagues about 15 per cent of the population, especially young graduates, while inflation eats away at already low incomes.

Tunisian voters on Sunday “preferred to venture into the unknown rather than extend a hand again to those who betrayed their hopes”, Le Quotidien newspaper said.

Karoui’s arrest in the runup to the election cemented his status as an outsider, despite being a longtime key supporter of President Beji Caid Essebsi, whose death on July 25 brought forward the polls.

Saied, a fiercely independent academic, advocates a radical decentralisation of power, with local democracy and the ability to remove elected officials from office during their mandates.

ISIE also said it is to investigate alleged electoral violations, including campaigning on behalf of Karoui by Nessma TV, founded by the media mogul.

Karoui himself is under investigation for alleged money laundering and has been in pre-trial detention since August 23. 

Appeals to have him freed before the polls were rejected but his lawyers plan to refile for his release after the results are confirmed.

Karoui remains eligible to run despite his imprisonment, as long as any conviction does not also specifically deprive him of his civil rights, according to ISIE.

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Seven Illegal Immigrants Drown in Libya

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The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday that seven illegal immigrants drowned off the Libyan coast over the past week.

“In the period of 17-23 November, the bodies of 7 immigrants washed up on shore and no survivors returned to Libya,” IOM said.

The IOM also said that 11,765 illegal immigrants had been rescued and returned to Libya so far in 2020, compared with 9,225 in 2019.

The organisation also revealed that a total of 312 illegal immigrants died and 414 others went missing on the Central Mediterranean route so far this year, compared with 270 deaths and 992 missing immigrants last year.

Following the ouster and killing of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been mired in a state of insecurity and chaos that has prompted thousands of illegal immigrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe from the country.

Thousands of illegal immigrants, who were either rescued at sea or arrested by the authorities, remain detained inside overcrowded detention centres in Libya, in spite of repeated international calls to close those centres.

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Egyptian Actor, Mohamed Ramadan to Face Trial over Photograph with Israeli Singer

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Egyptian actor and singer, Mohamed Ramadan, will face trial in December, following outrage in Egypt when a photo he took with an Israeli singer was posted on social media.

A lawyer, Tareq Mahmoud, filed a lawsuit against Ramadan, saying the photo offended Egyptians, but it was not clear what the precise charge against him was.

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters said the trial would begin on Dec. 19.

A photo of Ramadan posing with Israeli singer, Omer Adam in Dubai was first posted on Twitter by an Emirati journalist, and was deleted afterwards.

It however, later appeared on a Facebook page with the title “Israel speaks Arabic’’ linked to the Israeli Foreign Ministry along with the caption “Art always brings us together.’’

In response to the attacks online, Ramadan said on his own Facebook page that he never asked people their nationality before they took picture with him.

He also posted a video with a Palestinian fan in Dubai, accusing his attackers of trying to sabotage his success and popularity.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

However, it has been described as “cold peace’’ and many in Egypt reject normalisation between the two countries.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recently established official ties with Israel.

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UNICEF Says 348,000 Libyan Children Need Humanitarian Aid

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that more than 348,000 children out of 1.2 million people, need humanitarian assistance in Libya, due to the impact of the prolonged armed conflict, political and economic crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also said that $49.1 million is needed by the agency itself together with its partners for emergency interventions in the country in 2021.

In a statement issued on Friday on the review of its humanitarian work plan and needs in 2021, on the occasion of International Children’s Day, UNICEF announced that “it will work with government officials, civil society organisations and the private sector to implement its humanitarian, development and peacebuilding strategy in Libya.

The main needs associated with the coronavirus outbreak include priority interventions for 2021, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child protection.

“Humanitarian needs continue to increase in Libya due to the political crisis, armed conflict and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNICEF said, noting that “the first half of 2020 has seen the death of nearly 500 civilians, including 79 children”.

In August 2020, the UN agency counted the needs of more than 392,000 internally displaced persons and about 494,000 returnees for humanitarian assistance, including clean water, sanitation, access to health services, education and protection, ensuring that a total of 283,000 children are in need of protection and 165,000 have access to education.

UNICEF also warned of “the suffering of Libyan children and families due to the rapid deterioration of public services, high food and fuel prices, loss of livelihoods and serious protection problems.”

The agency, however, noted that vaccination services have ceased due to the coronavirus epidemic. In addition, “children are affected by armed conflict and are extremely vulnerable to violence, exploitation, trafficking, gender-based violence, recruitment by armed groups and illegal detention.”

Regarding the status of illegal immigrants, UNICEF has recorded the presence of nearly 585,000 migrants and refugees in Libya, including about 47,000 children (about 12,000 of them unaccompanied) since August 2020.

Every year on 20 November, UNICEF celebrates Universal Children’s Day, which coincides with the date of the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

The International Day aims to promote international cohesion and awareness among the world’s children and to improve their well-being.

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