BEIRUT: Posters of candidates festooned the highways of south Lebanon, running from Sidon until the very end of the Jezzine District, as the city prepped for one of the South's most heated electoral battles taking place on two fronts.
On one front is the battle for the district's parliamentary seat, with Amal Abou Zeid, backed by an alliance of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces (LF) and considered favored to win; Ibrahim Azar backed by Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement; and retired police chief Brig. Gen. Salah Gebran who is running as an independent, all competing for the post.
On the municipal elections' front in Jezzine town, members of the "We Are for Jezzine" candidate list, headed by Khalil Harfouch and backed by the FPM and the LF is competing against Nader Bou Nader's "Development First" candidate list backed by Azar, the Amal Movement and the Kataeb party.
A competitive atmosphere took over the town, as delegates from each political side competed to whip the vote of any passerby by giving them a candidate list. Others were handing out free food to people with colored thumbs, indicating they have already voted. The local restaurants have transformed into small political headquarters where delegates burst out loud political chants, distribute water and pictures of their candidates, with the eateries boasting orange or white flags along with huge posters of their political leaders.
"It is better suited for a person from Jezzine (city) to take the parliamentary seat, especially since the people want one of their own whom they can trust," Johnny Mansour told Annahar while waiting for his wife to exit the polling station.
Mansour was referring to Azar who hails from the town of Jezzine while Abou Zeid is from the town of Mlikh, also part of the wider Jezzine district.
A combative feeling played out between both camps, with music being blasted and shouts exchanged while everyone awaited voters to cast ballots. Cars strapped with posters of candidates patrolled the streets, sending out political messages that resounded off the town's buildings.
"I voted for Ibrahim Azar because this town needs fresh representation in order to implement change, improvement and development to maintain Jezzine as the gem that it truly is and I think Azar can offer that," Elias Bakhos said while stepping out of one of the polling stations.
A person who chose to remain anonymous said, "I voted for Amal Bou Zeid because he is backed by the FPM founder MP Michel Aoun who always has a big influence on our town and always worked for its betterment," noting that Jezzine is a popular tourist destination.
Charbel Asmar, another supporter of Abou Zeid, hailed the latter's successful career as a businessman, saying: "Abou Zeid's know-how to run large organizations is seen as a good quality since this shows the people of Jezzine that he has what it takes to represent them in parliament and make the right decision concerning its people."
Salim Aoun, an FPM supporter, said he was in favor of Harfouch, the current head of Jezzine's municipal council, retaining his post.
"The current municipal council headed by Khalil Harfouch has done great work over the years, and made Jezzine a better place to visit and to live in, so I think that they should stay and keep up the good work," Aoun told Annahar.
Rita Helou, who voted for the rival "Development First" municipal candidate list, disagreed. "The list can offer betterment to the town, something fresh especially since the list is comprised of people within Jezzine , who will put the town above all else."
Independent parliamentary candidate Salah Gebran was roaming all of the polling stations in the District of Jezzine as an attempt to whip last minute votes on the ground. "The people who are voting for me are seeking change, seeking something new to break the cycle of political parties in Jezzine and all around Lebanon, so I hope that their voices can be heard," Gebran told Annahar.
"I think these elections are a great way to show that the high voter turnout in Jezzine is a signal that the people want to vote in someone new, be it in parliament or the municipal council, and that is why you see such smoothness in our electoral process, the people just want to express themselves," Antoine Haddad told Annahar.
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