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Municipal Polls Postponed in 2 East Lebanon Towns over Sectarian Tension, Security Fears | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pigeons fly in front of the parliament square in downtown Beirut. Reuters

There are growing fears of tension in Lebanon as the country gears up for the municipal elections which are set to start on Sunday in the Beirut and Bekaa Governorates.

The Interior Ministry announced on Thursday that the polls in the Bekaa towns of Jdita and Hawsh Al-Harima in the country’s east would be postponed for security reasons, which were said to be “sectarian.”

The ministry said in its statement that it has received a letter from the residents of Jdita, which lies in the district of Zahle, complaining about the sectarian division of shares in the electoral lists.

The Central Security Council also said that “the electoral battle began taking a confessional turn,” which could lead to “strife and security problems in the town.”

Jdita’s Municipal Chief Wahib Qiqano told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision of the Interior Ministry came after the three electoral lists competing in the polls did not respect the sectarian division of power which has been adopted for years.

The current Municipal Council has four Maronite members, four Sunnis, four Catholics and three Greek Orthodox, he said. “But the competing lists did not abide by this division of power.”

As for the West Bekaa town of Hawsh Al-Harima, the Central Security Council took the decision to postpone the elections there over fears that the armed clashes would renew in the town.

A man has been killed in the town in gunbattles between bickering families.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to adjourn the elections was worthy after the dead man’s family set up an electoral list, which faces off competition from the murderer’s relatives in Hawsh Al-Harima.

Despite reports that the polls would be postponed in the northeastern border town of Arsal, no such measures were taken by the Interior Ministry.

Polling stations were set up in the army bases present in the town or locations abutting them.

Gunmen control part of Arsal’s territories, and its outskirts continue to witness military operations.

Polls for the remaining governorates are scheduled for May 15, 22 and 29.

But a parliamentary source expressed fear that Sunday’s municipal elections would witness security problems.

“There are real concerns of tension during the elections, mainly in the Bekaa Valley,” the source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Interior Ministry has said there will be more than 26,000 employees and 20,000 security and military members at more than 13,000 polling stations across in Lebanon during the elections this month.