Tunisian president sets election date for Oct. 6

Tunisian President Kais Saied visits China

TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisian President Kais Saied on Monday set the presidential election date for Oct. 6 and is widely expected to seek a second term, with at least one potential candidate in jail and others facing prosecution.

Elected president in 2019, Saied has not officially announced his candidacy but said last year he will not hand power to what he called non-patriots.

The opposition says fair and credible elections cannot be held unless imprisoned politicians are released and the media is allowed to do its job without pressure from the government.

Opposition parties including the Ennahda Islamist party and Free Constitutional Party say they see attempts by the government to exclude Saied's main rivals from the election.

Saied earlier this year criticized what he described as "politicians' jostling for office", saying those who previously boycotted parliamentary elections now wanted his job.

Abir Moussi, the leader of the Free Constitutional Party and a prominent candidate according to opinion polls, has been in prison since last year on charges of harming public security.

Moussi's party says she was imprisoned in an effort to remove her from the election race and avoid a very strong candidate. The authorities deny this.

Other candidates including Safi Saeed, Lotfi Maraihi, Nizar Chaari and Abd Ellatif Mekki are facing prosecution for alleged crimes such as fraud and money laundering.

Mondher Znaidi, a prominent potential condidate who is living in France, is also facing prosecution on suspicion of financial corruption.

Saied seized almost all powers in 2021, dissolved parliament, and began ruling by decree in a move that the opposition described as a coup. Saied said that his steps were legal and necessary to end years of rampant corruption among the political elite.

Prominent opponents of the president have been detained since last year on charges of conspiring against state security, in a crakdown that included businessmen, media figures and politicians.

(Reporting by Tunis newsroom; Editing by Stephen Coates)