Beirut: Lack of unity costs opposition in polls

The Daily Star, Lebanon
May 4 2004

Lack of unity costs opposition in polls
Authorities are big winners with 40 of 48 municipal council seats in

By Nada Raad
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The opposition’s less than stellar performance in Sunday’s
Mount Lebanon elections was attributed to its failure to forge robust
alliances when facing pro-government candidates, according to

The authorities, represented by former Interior Minister Michel Murr,
the current Metn MP, were the big winners, securing nearly 40 municipal
councils out of 48 municipalities in the Metn, which is considered
Murr’s turf. Similarly, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt grabbed most Chouf
villages, including Deir al-Qamar, where National Liberal Party leader
Dory Chamoun won the mayor’s seat.

The opposition also lost in Jbeil, where the Free Patriotic Movement
(FPM) formed an alliance with the National Bloc, which considers Jbeil
its headquarters, as founder Raymond Edde was from that area.

Hizbullah grabbed 68 percent of the votes in the southern suburbs of
Beirut, according to unofficial election results. Official results were
still being finalized as The Daily Star went to press.

But the opposition was successful in Sin al-Fil, Baskinta, Zouk Mikael
and Tabarja, while FPM media Elias Zoghbi said that FPM candidates won
seats in different towns and villages, mainly in Baabdat, and the qadas
of Jbeil and Kesrouan.

Observers said these results should compel some opposition parties not
to overestimate their clout and power.

Metn MP Pierre Gemayel told The Daily Star on Monday that the election
should serve as a lesson to some “almighty opposition parties” that
they are simply not that powerful, in reference to the FPM.

But other political observers chalked off the opposition’s failure to a
lack of unity, noting the defeats in towns and villages were there was
no cooperation among the different parties, such as in Jounieh, Jbeil,
Shiyah and Beit Chabab.

“The lack of cooperation among opposition groups in all areas under a
clear and unified political slogan was the major reason for their
unsuccessful representation in the municipal councils,” said Fadia
Kiwan, a professor of Political Science at Universite Saint Joseph.

For some opposition groups, the defeat was due to the betrayal of their

The FPM blamed former President Amin Gemayel for betraying the
opposition groups, describing Gemayel’s move as a “pre-calculated
strategy” for the 2005 parliamentary election.

“Gemayel betrayed us as usual and cooperated with the
government-supported lists to win more seats in municipal councils and
to be prepared for the 2005 parliamentary elections,” Zoghbi said.

Amin Gemayel’s son, Pierre, denied the allegations and said no
cooperation between the Phalange Party opposition faction and the
government was made during the municipal election on May 2.

He said the Phalange Party opposition faction never considered the FPM
as a “competitor and did not regard General Michel Aoun as an enemy.”

“If we cooperated with the government, particularly with Murr, then let
the FPM name the areas where we did so,” Gemayel said. “When the FPM
are cooperating with (former MP) Najah Wakim and Hizbullah, is that not
polishing their cooperation with the government?”

The FPM formed a coalition with Hizbullah in Haret Hreik, a southern
suburb of Beirut and is allying itself with Wakim in the Beirut
elections next Sunday.

Gemayel also denied FPM claims that the party withdrew from Beit
Chabab, accusing the FPM of “rejecting the Phalange Party’s proposals
for the mayor’s seat.”

“They want to lead the battle alone, which they are directing against
Amin Gemayel and not Murr and against some opposition groups and not
the government,” he said.

A source in the Lebanese Forces said the results of the municipal
election could have been better had all opposition parties cooperated.

“We did not have conflicting positions like other parties by
cooperating with a group in Jbeil and its opponents in Jounieh, like
other parties did.”

Some opposition groups justified their unsuccessful battle by the
bribes offered to voters.

Kiwan, who is also a member of the National Bloc and a candidate who
ran for the Jaj municipal election in Jbeil and failed, said that some
$300 were paid to voters as they stood at the voting booths.

Zoghbi said some Armenians were used by the government to win the
municipal battle, such as in Bsalim, where over 150 Armenians were
registered on the village’s electoral lists few weeks before the
election day.