presidential frontrunner says own party members want him dead

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-The prosecution service said Monday it has opened an inquiry after a frontrunner in Tunisia’s presidential poll in November, 87-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, said members of his own party want him killed.

Prosecution service spokesman Allala Rhouma told AFP that after statements Essebsi made during a meeting on Friday, an inquiry has begun “and the judge will summon Mr Essebsi so he can name those implicated.”

Rhouma cited articles of the Tunisian criminal code dealing with attempted murder and conspiracy.

Essebsi, a former premier and considered the main rival to the party Ennahda, on Friday accused “infiltrators” in his Nidaa Tounes party who oppose his candidacy of wanting to eliminate him.

Tunisia is gearing up for a parliamentary election on October 26 and a presidential poll less than a month later, on November 23.

For weeks, Nidaa Tounes has seen infighting over Essebsi’s nomination because of his advanced age and over the place accorded to former members of ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

On Monday, Nidaa Tounes excluded two party members, one of whom, Omar Shabou, said on television Sunday that he had seen Essebsi’s medical file and his health would not allow him to perform the duties of president.

However, Essebsi remains a favorite to become head of state.

A veteran of Tunisian politics, Essebsi was minister of the interior, defense and foreign affairs under the country’s founding president Habib Bourguiba, and then parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali.

His critics accuse him of seeking to restore the regime of the deposed dictator, while his supporters say he is the only credible counterweight to Ennahda, which resigned this year after months of political crisis.

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