Political parties consolidate grip over municipalities

by Annahar Staff

9 May 2016 | 20:23

  • by Annahar Staff
  • Last update: 9 May 2016 | 20:23

A Lebanese election official counts ballots after the polling station closed during Beirut's municipal elections in Lebanon, May 8, 2016. (Reuters Photo/Mohamed Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon's traditional political parties strengthened their grip over municipalities in the first local vote since 2010 when the government last held municipal polls across the country.

The government has adjourned parliamentary elections twice since 2013, citing security concerns linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria. The first round of municipal elections, which concluded on Sunday in Beirut and across cities, towns and villages in the Bekaa region in a relatively calm atmosphere, is expected, however, to undermine this argument, analysts say.

A smooth electoral process in the following three rounds of municipal polls that will take place in other parts of the country in coming weeks would lay the ground for parliamentary elections scheduled for 2017 unless Lebanon's security situation deteriorates significantly by that time, analysts say.

According to preliminary results released Monday, independent and civil society-backed candidates failed to win any seats in the capital or other major municipalities across the Bekaa region.

A group of candidates backed by a coalition of political parties spearheaded by Future Movement leader Saad Hariri swept all 24 municipal council seats in Beirut amid a low voter turnout of 20.14 percent.

The elections mainly pitted civil society candidates from the "Beirut Madinati," Arabic for "Beirut, My City," against "Beirutis," a list backed by Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement and the country's three main Christian political parties.

In the city of Zahle, the alliance of the country's top three Christian parties comprising the Lebanese Forces, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Kataeb party emerged victorious in a heated electoral battle in which turnout reached 43 percent.

Hezbollah-backed candidates also secured a sweeping victory in municipalities across the Baalbek and Hermel districts, the party's deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem said Monday.

Hezbollah's Loyalty to Development candidate list won all municipal council seats in the city of Baalbek and major town of Britel.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections reported 647 violations in the first round of municipal elections in Beirut and the Bekaa region Sunday, an increase of 106 percent compared to the 2010 municipal polls.

Violations ranged from bribery to the distribution of ballots inside polling stations.

 

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