BEIRUT: The Baalbek-Hermel district is gearing up for a fierce electoral battle pitting the Shiite Hezbollah-Amal Movement coalition against two pillars of the now-defunct March 14 alliance, the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces (LF).
The Shiite coalition, running under the banner of ‘Al Amal wel Wafa’, will seek to cement its status in the district, long regarded as a Hezbollah stronghold.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-backed Future Movement and LF will seek to deny the Iranian-sponsored group a commanding win, which experts say was the main motive behind the alliance in one of only three districts between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and LF leader Samir Geagea.
Despite their strained relationship, both leaders have also forged alliances in the Chouf-Aley district after a partnership was brokered by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, as well as in the district of Akkar where the Future Movement left a vacant seat for LF candidate Wehbe Kattisha, a retired army general.
Lebanon’s new electoral law, which is based on proportional representation in 15 districts, has laid the groundwork for fierce challenges across several districts, and Baalbek-Hermel is no exception.
Shiites represent 73 percent of eligible voters in Baalbek-Hermel and are reserved six seats.
Sunnis, on the other hand, represent 13 percent of eligible voters and are reserved two seats while Maronites and Catholics, which account for 14 percent altogether, hold one seat each.
Geagea and Hariri, the once tight-knit allies, will seek to win the confidence of Sunni and Christian voters in an attempt to secure at least two of the 10 seats up for grabs.
Running in conjunction with the politically affiliated candidates is three civil society campaigns, ‘Arez Al Watani’, ‘Enmaa w Taghyir’, and those simply running under the banner of the ‘Independents’.
“We are fighting the warlords,” Adel Bayan, leader of the Arez Al Watani campaign, told Annahar.
Yet Bayan acknowledged the fact that the “opposition” being fragmented into three different lists will hurt their chances of breaking the establishment's dominance.
Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections on May 6, as Lebanese hit the polls to elect their representatives for the first time in nine years.
On February 19, Hezbollah announced their candidates for the elections, including the former head of General Security, Jamil al-Sayyed, who runs in the Baalbek-Hermel district.
The former commander of Lebanon’s security establishment is a staunch opponent of Hariri, with their feud dating back to the assassination of Hariri's father.
Al-Sayyed was arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and terrorism in connection with the high-profile assassination and held in prison from 2005 until April 2009, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ordered his release.
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