Beirut: Amal, Tashnak, Hizbullah on PM’s slate

The Daily Star, Lebanon
April 30 2004

Amal, Tashnak, Hizbullah on PM’s slate
Baath, SSNP endorse list

By Nayla Assaf
Daily Star staff

After two hours of delays and amid rumors that last-minute changes
might push the announcement back to another day, Prime Minister
Hariri’s list for the Beirut Municipal elections was announced
Thursday, which introduces 10 new faces to the 1998 list.

Beirut Mayor Abdel-Monem Aris, the president of the Beirut Unity List
read the names and the program at the Press Federation in the presence
of most of the members of Hariri’s parliamentary bloc.

Most of the six parties which had discussed an alliance with Hariri
were included, except for three: the Syrian Baath Party, the Syrian
Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Phalanges Party. The Baath and
the SSNP were not supposed to submit candidates but merely to endorse
the list, which they did.

As for the Phalanges, as predicted by observers of the electoral scene,
it was not on the list and its candidate, council member Bernard
Gerbeka, was excluded this time around.

The exclusion came despite reported mediation by members of the six
parties with Hariri, whose row with Administrative Reform Minister
Karim Pakradouni, leader of the Phalanges, proved insurmountable.

Despite the fact that it has received the backing of many parties,
Hariri’s new list is missing members of right-wing Christian Parties
like the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Phalanges, which had been
included in 1998 and had given the list a conciliatory aspect. Also,
despite calls to include more women, the list only included one woman,
council member Roula Ajouz.

Hizbullah’s representative, Amine Sherri, remained on the list and so
did Amal Movement candidate Fadi Shahrour, the only candidate on
Hariri’s list of 24 members who failed in 1998. Also, the Tashnak Party
candidate, Abraham Matossian, remained on the list.

Outside the six parties, the Jamaa Al-Islamiya will be represented by
its old candidate, council member Issam Barghout, while the Progressive
Socialist Party is presenting a new candidate, Mounib Nassreddine.

The remaining new candidates are George Tyan, Hassan Hallak, Tony
Khoury, Antoine Syriani, Salim Saad, Riad Alayli, Serge Joukhadarian,
Ralph Eid and Saaduddine Wazzan.

The rest of the continuing candidates are Aris, Ajouz, Imad Beidoun,
Rachid Jalkh, Sami Rizk, Hisham Sinno, Salim Itani, Varoujian
Kantarjian, Tawfiq Kfoury, and Sami Nasr.

The six parties which conferred with Hariri over the past two weeks are
the Amal Movement, the Phalanges Party, the SSNP, the Tashnak Party,
Hizbullah and the Baath Party.

“Some (candidates) have chosen not to continue the path with us for
personal reasons, while current circumstances … dictated that others
don’t continue,” said Aris, who thanked all the outgoing council
members “for six years of cooperation.”

Aris later read the list’s program, which mostly entailed “applying an
ambitious program to develop the capital and expand the working
opportunities for its sons and modernize laws and regulations.”

He gave a long list of goals for the coming term which included solving
traffic problems, developing infrastructure in the capital, expanding
green spaces and promoting culture, health, the environment and sports.

He also listed a number of reforms to be conducted within the
municipality. They include centralizing municipal offices,
computerizing municipal data and hiring Beirutis to work for the

In 1998, Hariri’s list to the Beirut Municipality won a landslide
victory, taking 23 out of 24 seats. Rival candidate Abdel-Hamid
Fakhoury was the only one to break through, ousting Shahrour.

Prior to the conference, members of the parties visited Hariri. After
the visit, SSNP President, Gebran Araiji, told reporters the Phalanges
Party thought it best to withdraw “as a sacrifice for the interest of

He denied allegations that the other parties had abandoned the
Phalanges, insisting that the Phalanges withdrew on its own personal

He said that in light of the fact the municipalities’ law was unjust,
the list needed to be thought out very carefully and include
representatives from all confessions, which he said it did. He said
this motivated the parties to come to a joint arrangement.