BEIRUT: Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi secured a sweeping victory in municipal elections in Tripoli, Lebanon's northern capital and the country's second-largest city, in a major blow to a coalition of major Sunni political factions.
Rifi's "Tripoli's Choice" candidate list emerged victorious against a coalition list backed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, former ministers Mohammad Safadi and Faysal Karami, and Islamist groups.
The relation between Hariri and Rifi has gradually deteriorated since the Future Movement leader washed his hands of Rifi's decision to unilaterally resign from the Cabinet in February.
Rifi had argued that he refused "to cover up for Hezbollah's increased domination over the Lebanese government."
The rift between Hariri and Rifi has since widened until they parted ways when the former prime minister nominated a close Hezbollah ally, Marada Movement Chief Suleiman Franjieh, for the presidency.
"Definitely, Tripoli said 'No' to the election of Frangieh for president a long time ago," Rifi told a local radio station Monday.
In a news conference later in the day, Rifi called on Hariri to reconsider his political stances, particularly when it comes to the nomination of Franjieh.
According to preliminary results, Rifi's list won at least 18 seats in Tripoli's 24-member seat council in the biggest upset in Lebanon's municipal polls.
Hariri had conceded the elections before the official results were announced, urging all political factions to put their differences aside and join hands.
25 percent of eligible voters in Tripoli had cast ballots in the fourth round and last round of municipal elections in the north Lebanon and Akkar governorates.
In Qobeiyat, one of the largest Maronite towns in the Akkar governorate, a candidate list backed by Future Movement MP Hadi Hobeish and the Kataeb Party secured a narrow victory against candidates supported by the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement.
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