Secretary-General of Nidaa Tounes, Slim Riahi, sparked controversy after sending a message to his opponents and supporters from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he is currently based after leaving Tunisia following the issuance of prison sentences against him in cases of financial and administrative corruption.
In an interview with Emirati newspaper Al-Khaleej, Riahi called for Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi’s re-election for a second term in the country’s upcoming elections later this year. He stressed that the main task of Nidaa Tounes’s presidential candidate would be to amend the constitution and to transform the current political system from a parliamentary to a readjusted presidential one.
Riahi insisted that he is currently working on “the consolidation of a moderate political block to form a large party and build alliances before the elections,” while directing criticism against his rival Youssef Chahed and the National Coalition bloc, which supports the Tunisian prime minister in parliament.
He also indicated that he was the mastermind behind the “Paris meeting,” which brought together Essebsi and the head Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, Rached Ghannouchi, on 15 August 2013 after the assassination of leftist leader Mohamed Brahimi.
During the same interview, Riahi stated that: “The meeting contributed to calming the situation in Tunisia, and drove [the] Islamists out of power, allowing the completion of the transitional political process and the ratification of the new Constitution.”
On 6 February, the Tunis Court of First Instance sentenced Riahi to five years in prison with immediate effect in a case involving the issuance of cheques without account balance.
Riahi faces also other prison sentences for cases of administrative and financial corruption committed while he was the head of the Tunisian sports club Club Africain.
Riahi has accused Prime Minister Chahed and some of his advisers of conducting a coup against the president and conspiring against the security of the state. However, the military judiciary has suspended the complaint and promised to prosecute Riahi for not attending the court sessions under the pretext of travelling abroad.