SAT 16 - 2 - 2019
Mar 22, 2018
The Daily Star
Lebanon: Vote alliances take shape as cutoff looms
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Days before the deadline to form electoral lists, political parties and alliances appear to be taking shape and becoming clearer. With the deadline for submitting finalized electoral lists looming, negotiations between political parties to align are continuing and although nothing is certain, most alliances appear as expected.
In the coming days list announcements will be held by various parties, notwithstanding the Future Movement and Lebanese Forces
The relationship between the once inseparable allies has been downsized to just three electoral districts, sources say.
“We will be aligned in Akkar and Baalbeck-Hermel,” a high-ranking LF source told The Daily Star, referring to Future-LF electoral coalition. While he said they would also be aligned in the Chouf-Aley and Baabda districts, “this is a three-way alliance with them and the Progressive Socialist Party.”
Hezbollah and Amal will be heavy favorites against the LF-Future list in Baalbeck-Hermel. The Free Patriotic Movement, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Minister of State Talal Arsalan will also run lists.
In Baabda, the LF and PSP will align against lists backed by Amal Movement, Hezbollah and the FPM.
As for the West Bekaa-Rashaya district, an alliance appears likely between Future and PSP, while two other lists will compete for seats – one headed by former minister Abdel Rahim Murad and potentially the FPM. The other, headed by the LF, hopes to find enough allies to form a list by Monday.
The Maronite stronghold of Kesrouan-Jbeil has multiple lists running, most notably the FPM’s, the LF and another by former MP Farid Khazen.
Meanwhile, the nation’s capital is divided into two – Beirut I and Beirut II. Beirut I, of mainly Christian voters, has one list backed by the LF, Nadim Gemayel – son of slain President Bashir Gemayel – and Minister of State Michel Pharaon. There is another list backed by the FPM and Armenian heavyweights Tashnag Party, while the civil society could have its strongest case for a potential MP in its list that includes high-profile journalist Paula Yacoubian.
Beirut II will likely see a tough battle between Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, with the PSP, against a list backed by Amal and Hezbollah. Another list headed by businessman Fouad Makhzoumi will also seek to make gains on the established parties.
Sidon-Jezzine appears locked in for an alliance between the FPM and Future against a LF list, and another by Amal and Hezbollah.
Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement and Hezbollah are expected to take a majority of the 11 seats reserved for Nabatieh-Marjayoun-Bint Jbeil- Hasbaya.
Driving north to the country’s second biggest city of Tripoli, a list backed by the Future Movement has improved its once long odds in the face of lists backed by former Prime Minister MP Najib Mikati and another by former minister Faisal Karami. With Ashraf Rifi’s heavily tipped bid failing to make key alliances – including with Akkar MP Khaled Daher who withdrew Tuesday and backed Hariri – the Future list looks to be in better shape than it was.
Minyeh-Dinyeh is included in this electoral district as well.
Also in the north, the district of Bsharri-Zgharta-Batroun-Koura will be hotly contested between a list backed by the LF and Kataeb against one from the FPM and son of slain President Rene Moawad, Michel. MP Boutros Harb appears likely to align with the SSNP and Marada Movement in the region as well.
Separately, Hezbollah announced their electoral program for the next four years, which will focus on combating corruption, pending the election of its candidates.
“We decided to form a branch in Hezbollah that is designated to combatting corruption via our ministers, MPs and political authorities,” the group’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Wednesday. He vowed that his group “will remain clean and not involved in any corruption.”
Also in the same context, Nasrallah promised that ministers and MPs of Hezbollah would not approve of any contracts for companies of state projects if they were not designated by the Tenders Department. Bids for a new solution to the electricity crisis involving the leasing of new power barges stirred controversy in recent months after the ddepartment twice rejected the bids of Turkish company Karadeniz Holding, which already owns the two current ships of Lebanon’s coastline.
Nasrallah touched on Hezbollah’s role in the upcoming elections and preparations leading up to it.
“We did not pressure or impose anything on anyone and we tell our allies that conflict leads to failure,” in an apparent reference to sparring Sunni candidates loyal to Hezbollah, as well as the ongoing saga between the FPM and Amal Movement. “We call for humility, compromise and understanding,” he said, adding that only a few hours remain until the deadline to submit electoral lists.
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