Beirut-Lebanon’s southern city of Sidon is heading towards a political battle in Sunday’s municipal elections as a list headed by the current municipal chief, Engineer Mohammed al-Saudi, is seen to be capable of achieving victory once more. But a factor that cannot be ignored is the popular support for nonpartisan figures and Islamists in the city.
Three lists are competing for Sidon’s municipal council. One of them is the “Developing Sidon” list which is headed by al-Saudi and is backed by al-Mustaqbal Movement, mainly former Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and MP Bahia Hariri, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and Dr. Nazih al-Bizri.
Its candidates have pledged to carry out more than 30 development projects. The members of the list whose majority hold currently municipal council seats have already implemented 20 vital projects during their tenure.
The second “Voice of the People” list is headed by Engineer Bilal Shaaban and is backed by the Popular Nasserite Organization, which is led by former lawmaker Ousama Saad. It is also supported by the so-called Hezbollah, Amal Movement, the Lebanese Communist Party and the Popular Democratic Party.
The members of the list have vowed to carry out major projects in the city, including providing Sidon with 24-hour electricity and renewing its infrastructure.
As for the third “Liberals of Sidon” list, it is incomplete and has just nine candidates, who are either nonpartisan or Islamists. The list is headed by former al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official Ali al-Sheikh Ammar.
The members of the list have chosen to raise the issue of Islamist detainees, mainly the Imam of Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir.
They are depending on the votes of Islamic forces to succeed in the elections. The city’s Islamists have complained of injustice following the Abra incidents which led to the arrest of scores of Sidon citizens and ended al-Assir’s presence.
The general coordinator of al-Mustaqbal Movement in southern Lebanon, Dr. Nasser Hammoud, who is one of the candidates of the “Developing Sidon” list, said: “Sidon knows what the current municipality achieved in the past six years, starting with the dump, the waste facility, public gardens, the port and infrastructure in the souks.”
“We have promised the citizens of Sidon to carry out more projects,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
“The electoral battle took a political twist amid the wide popular support for the movement (al-Mustaqbal) in Sidon and the presence of the Popular Nasserite Organization,” said Hammoud. “But we are leading a development battle … even if the PNO took it to the political arena.”
“There are a lot of campaigns against us. But the people of Sidon are wise and know whom to choose as their representatives,” he added.