Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hariri Succeeds in Protecting Parity between Muslims and Christians in Beirut Polls | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Future Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri greets his supporters after casting his ballot at a polling station during Beirut’s municipal elections. Reuters

Beirut-Lebanon’s municipal elections, which were held in their first round in the Beirut and Bekaa governorates on Sunday, reflected the success of the authorities to organize the polls despite the security challenge and a drop in the ability of political parties to mobilize the people to vote for their lists mainly in the capital Beirut and the city of Zahle.

The low voter turnout in the elections was also a reflection of the people’s despair from the political class.

In the Beirut battle, the “Beirutis’ List” backed by the Future Movement and an alliance between Amal, Jamaa Al-Islamiya, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement made an acceptable victory by a wide margin against the list of “Beirut Madinati.”

The “Beirut Madinati” list’s members were from civil society backed indirectly by the so-called Hezbollah, which steered itself clear of the alliance among the political parties in Beirut.

The head of the “Beirutis’ List,” Jamal Itani, has announced victory, a clear reflection of the ability of Future Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri in consolidating the division of power between Muslims and Christians in Beirut municipality.

It became clear that Sunni voters tipped the balance in favor of the Future-backed list at a time when Christians had a low voter turnout in the Beirut 1 electoral district and the majority of Christians did not vote for the list made up of the representatives of political parties as a result of the differences among Free Patriotic Movement members and supporters.

“The municipal elections proved to be a partial victory for democracy and a full victory for security,” a ministerial source told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Yet they proved that the parties failed” in their marketing strategy.

“The low turnout has one explanation – the people no longer trust the political class or its ability to change,” said the source.

The scene in the eastern Bekaa Valley, mainly in Zahle, was not different.

The list backed by a coalition of three Christian parties – the Kataeb, the LF and the FPM – garnered around 10,000 votes in the tightly contested polls with a 900-vote difference with another rival list.

In the city of Baalbek, the list backed by the so-called Hezbollah emerged victorious but this victory was seen as a defeat because the party had only a slight lead ahead of a list made up from the city’s families.

Shi’ite votes have dwindled. Had it not been for hundreds of Sunni voters from Al-Ahbash, which is allied with the so-called Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, the result would have been different.