|Date: Mar 28, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Lebanon: Vote lists close with 597 in race|
|Ghinwa Obeid & Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: As the doors for registering lists closed midnight Monday, 597 candidates remained in the running for parliamentary elections. The candidates are distributed across 77 lists that will compete in the May 6 vote.
Out of the 917 registered candidates, 320 who had been unable to make it onto any list were eliminated from the race, including several civil society members and politicians who decided to withdraw at the last minute.
The closing of registration was accompanied by the consolidation of list announcements and political alliances Tuesday.
The Marada Movement announced its “Together for the North and Lebanon” list for the Bsharri-Koura-Batroun-Zgharta district. The announcement was peppered with political messages as Tony Frangieh, the son of Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh, threw a jab at the Free Patriotic Movement.
“Their results in the electricity [sector] were nil, their results in the Foreign [Ministry] were nil, their result in the environment sector was nil and the same in fighting corruption,” said Frangieh, who is running for the district’s Maronite seat.
Frangieh was referring to FPM head Gebran Bassil, who is currently the foreign minister and previously served as energy minister, and to the FPM’s professed focus on combating corruption.
“Rest assured that if the Environment Ministry was with [Marada], the sea wouldn’t have been filled with trash, and if the Justice Ministry was with us, we would’ve fought for an independent judiciary, and if the Foreign Ministry was with us, we wouldn’t have used it in our electoral campaigns,” Frangieh said, referencing ministries currently headed by FPM members.
Environment Minister Tarek Khatib later responded to Frangieh, saying that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
In another significant development Tuesday, a meeting was held between Bassil and Lebanese Democratic Party head and Minister for the Displaced Talal Arslan.
Media reports suggested that the pair were having difficulties reaching an alliance, but the joint news conference put those claims to rest.
Both Bassil and Arslan announced that their electoral alliance was going to evolve into a political agreement.
“This agreement is much more than forming a list or an agreement on [several] lists, as is the reality of these elections, it is an announcement of a political agreement that is a national partnership and the partnership in the mountains in particular,” Bassil said.
“We promise the residents of the mountains that they will feel the results of our agreement over the next four years,” he added, speaking from Arslan’s residence in Khaldeh.
Arslan will be joining the FPM-backed “Guarantee of the Mountain” list that will be contesting the 13 seats in the Chouf-Aley district.
He announced that MPs from his party would join the FPM’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc to “work together to [correct] the injustices that the residents of the mountains experience.”
A similar agreement was made between local Christians and Druze in 2001, under the patronage of former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir and Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who is the head of the Progressive Socialist Party.
In 1983, PSP and Christian parties in the Chouf fought what would later become known as the Mountain War, with the road to reconciliation culminating in the 2001 agreement and a historic visit to the mountain region by Sfeir.
Separately, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Hezbollah needed representation in Parliament and Cabinet in order to defend the resistance, Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted him as saying in a report Tuesday.
Nasrallah added that Hezbollah would not be dragged into the verbal mudslinging or respond to provocative speeches.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, among others, has said that the upcoming elections are a battle against Hezbollah.
“You will not hear anything from the Future Movement and others, other than rhetoric [to rally voters],” Nasrallah said, adding that this will be done to “satisfy Saudi Arabia and the Americans because they have nothing [else] to offer to their audience.”
Turning to Hezbollah’s Baalbeck-Hermel stronghold, the Hezbollah secretary-general once again spoke of his willingness to personally visit “each village.”
“I will repeat it for the third time: I will personally go to Baalbeck-Hermel if the battle requires,” Nasrallah said, adding that if the voters “put in some effort, we could win nine of 10 seats.”