Beirut-Lebanon’s fourth and final round of municipal elections ended on Sunday after voters in the North and Akkar Governorates cast their ballots amid a calm situation and a turnout of around 40 percent.
While the competition was mainly development-based in many villages and towns in the North and Akkar, the political confrontation was obvious in several regions.
The “mother of all battles” was in the city of Tripoli between four competing lists. The battles that the Christian parties – the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement – fought in the previous rounds of elections with their rivals were also tense in Qobayat and Batroun on Sunday.
There was stiff competition between the “Tripoli” list and “Tripoli’s decision” list.
The “Tripoli” list was backed mainly by the Future Movement in agreement with former Prime Minister Najib Miqati and ex-Ministers Mohammed al-Safadi, Faisal Karami and Ahmed Karami and MPs Mohammed Kabbara and Robert Fadel in addition to al-Jamaa al-Islamiyah and al-Mashareeh Association.
The “Tripoli’s Choice” ticket was supported by former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. There were two other lists – one backed by former MP Mosbah al-Ahdab and the other by civil society.
“I am confronting all those who want to bring back the division of shares to the city,” said Rifi.
He confirmed his breakaway from the Future Movement. “I am not anyone’s heir. I am an independent Hariri phenomenon and I will remain so,” Rifi told reporters after casting his ballot in Tripoli.
“I do not follow anyone blindly. I voted for the Tripoli’s Choice list because it is unacceptable that anyone dictate the decision of Tripoli,” he said.
Al-Ahdab, on the other hand, said: “The other party is not proposing a program. Some sides want an internal war.”
There was low voter turnout in Tripoli, which has in the past witnessed bloody battles between the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the majority Alawite Jabal Mohsen.
Some people said the low turnout was the result of “the people’s loss of hope in change.”
As for the battles in the elections in Qobayat that lies in Koura district and Tannourine, which is in Batroun district, they were similar to the ones witnessed in Zahle and Deir al-Qamar and Jounieh in the previous rounds.
In Qobayat, the LF and the FPM confronted top figures – Future Movement MP Hadi Hbeish and former lawmaker Mikhael al-Daher – in addition to the Kataeb party, leading to a high turnout.
As for Tannourine, the Christian allies also confronted a list baked by MP Butros Harb and the Kataeb party.
In Zgharta, the result of the polls was almost certain after the Marada Movement and the Independence Movement of Michel Moawad fought the elections hand in hand.
The stronghold of the LF, Bsharri, witnessed a battle between two lists. One of them was backed MP Sethrida Geagea and the other was made up of independents, whom sources said were former LF members.
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said during a tour on polling stations on Sunday that there were only three cases of vote-buying and that the suspects were arrested.