Beirut: Municipal polls The family factor

Municipal polls The family factor

Monday Morning, Lebanon
May 10 2004

The dramatic recent events in the Middle East have not overshadowed
the municipal elections, which are at the center of the Lebanese
interest this month. President Emile Lahoud was particularly
concerned, in the last few months, for ensuring a climate of security
and neutrality, through the intermediary of the administrative and
security apparatus, the Army and Internal Security Forces maintaining
order around and inside the election offices. President Lahoud was
also in favor of having an agreement in the towns and localities
where it would be possible to set up consensual tickets, but if this
was not the case, the municipal elections should take place in a calm
atmosphere, given that the municipality assumes functions having an
administrative nature, or relating to the environment, health and
public services. Receiving Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Peter
VIII Abdelahad, President Lahoud insisted on the necessity of having
“all the Lebanese disregard their dissensions and sensitivities that
are the case of ill-feeling”.

“They should close ranks and join efforts so as to confront the dangers
threatening the Middle East and the challenges facing us”, he added.

‘Preservation of harmony’

After Mount Lebanon, came the turn of Beirut and the Bekaa to elect
their candidates on May 9.

As to what concerns the capital, the odds seemed to be strongly
in favor of the ticket sponsored by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,
especially after Abdelhamid Fakhouri withdrew his candidacy. Fakhouri
pulled out after former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, a Sunnite notable
in Beirut, decided to distance himself from the elections. For his
part, Tammam Salam, another Sunnite figure and also a supporter of
Fakhouri, decided to support the ticket headed by Abdelmonem Aris,
outgoing mayor of Beirut.

Salam praised the formation of the “Beirut Unity” ticket sponsored
by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, designed to embrace as much of the
city’s confessional political and confessional horizon as possible
in order to “maintain the unity of Beirut and express the desire of
its people to live together in harmonious coexistence”.

There was one slight note of disharmony in Hariri’s refusal to accept a
candidate of the Kataeb Party on the Unity ticket, reportedly because
the leader of the party, Karim Pakradouni, minister of administrative
development, had irritated the prime minister by opposing proposals
supported by him during cabinet meetings.

Pakradouni tried to put the best face on the matter by indicating that
he preferred to withdraw his party’s candidate rather than compromise
national unity.

As for Gebran Araiji, leader of the Syrian Social National Party
(SSNP), he declared in the name of the committee of parties, “We have
noted Salam’s desire to preserve harmony between all sides and ensure
their representation [on the municipal council], and especially the
representation of the Christians within the ‘Unity’s ticket”. He
added that “Syria supports this action, and this is proved by the
fact that President Bashar Assad has affirmed his determination to
remain equidistant from all the components of the Lebanese population”.

Murr: ‘In favor of democratic elections’

Elias Murr, minister of the interior and of municipal affairs, stated
following a meeting with Mgr. Elias Audé, Greek Orthodox archbishop of
Beirut, that his main concern was that “the municipal elections have
taken place in a democratic manner, giving Lebanon some credibility
abroad”. He added, “If we think that the municipal elections in a
certain region will lead to trouble that may endanger public security,
we will postpone the elections for one month”.

Following a fracas between supporters of MP Walid Jumblatt, leader
of the Progressive Socialist Party, and Talal Arslan, head of the
Lebanese Democratic Party, in the Mount Lebanon town of Shweifat,
Murr stated that those who provoked it may have wanted to postpone
the municipal elections in that region, where the two traditional
fractions of the Druze community, “Yazbakis” and “Jumblattis”, were
confronting each other.

In response to the statement made by the Free Patriotic Current,
loyal to exiled General Michel Aoun, accusing the authorities of bias
in the conduct of the elections, Murr replied, “We’ve heard the same
accusation from several of the many candidates. That’s why we have
set up a special bureau to receive such complaints and investigate
them and check their veracity”.

The minister was non-committal about the situation in the Beirut
polls, to be held on May 9. “I think that Premier Hariri, being in
the strongest position, will have the lion’s share of the seats on
the city council”.

Lahoud satisfied

Back to the elections in Mount Lebanon. President Lahoud expressed
satisfaction with the results and the way the polls had been conducted
and congratulated the winning candidates and the officials responsible
for polling stations and security. “The elections in Mount Lebanon
should serve as models for the polls in other provinces”. At Shweifat,
the Jumblattist candidate won the palm, while Talal Arslan called
for an invalidation of the poll “because of flagrant irregularities”.

In the North Metn, MP Michel Murr, the dominant political figure of
the region, sponsored tickets in 40 of the 48 municipalities and was
the main winner in the elections.

In Jounieh, ticket-splitting and vote-buying were the principal
accusations made by the competing candidates. Two tickets were in
contention for the 16,000 voters. The first, called “Jounieh of the
Future”, included the outgoing mayor, Adel Bou-Karam, and was backed
by MPs Georges Frem and Mansour el-Bone. The other, supported by MP
Farid el-Khazen and Minister Fares Bouez and called “All for Jounieh”,
was led by Juan Hobeish. The latter ticket managed to obtain the
largest number of seats on the municipal council.

In Deir al-Kamar, 11 of the 12 candidates on the ticket sponsored by
Dory Chamoun, leader of the National Liberal Party and mayor of the
town, were elected. Only the head of the opposing ticket, retired
Brigadier Adonis Nehmé, broke through the Chamoun list.

Michel Murr:’No link between municipal polls and the presidential

Following his success in the North Metn, Michel Murr, replying to a
reporter’s question, indicated that “the presidential election is in
no way linked to the municipal polls” and criticized those who wanted
to “do battle with the Administration, that is, with the president,
and in his own fief, the Metn District… which is and will remain an
area of Christian moderation, and President Lahoud wishes to see this
attitude of mind maintained throughout the region.

“That is why, when the political battle comes, we shall declare
our position in all frankness and say: this region will be behind
President Lahoud if he stands as a candidate for the headship of
the state. President Lahoud is considered a man of deep patriotism,
as he proved in South Lebanon, and he opposes the implantation of
[Palestinian] refugees. I will always be by his side, whatever
the battle may be, not least that of a renewal of the presidential

In Dekwaneh, all factions of the opposition supported the incomplete
ticket of Joseph Bou-Abboud, which confronted the pro-Michel Murr
ticket of Antoine Nicolas Shakhtoura, which captured the majority of
seats in contention.

In Sin al-Fil, there was an intense battle between the opposition
ticket led by Nabil Kahalé and that of the outgoing mayor, Sami
Shaoul, pro-Murr. Fifteen of the 18 seats went to the opposition.
In Jdeide-Boushrieh, everyone was surprised to see the arrival,
carried en masse in minibuses, of bedouins brought in to vote for
the pro-Murr ticket. They were heard discussing the “tariff”, which
was not up to their expectations, but which they received as soon
as they had cast their ballots. As usual, the Armenian Tashnak Party
came down solidly on the side of the Administration.

The opposition was divided between the reformist Kataeb movement,
supporting Boulos Kanaan’s (second) ticket, on the one hand, and a
ticket representing the Free Patriotic Current, the National Liberals
and the Lebanese Forces on the other.

In Jal al-Dib, fief of the Abou-Jaoudé family, the contest was between
two tickets, one headed by Edouard Abou-Jaoudé (pro-Murr), the other
by Tony Abou-Jaoudé and Antoine Zard (Free Patriotic Current-National
Liberals Lebanese Front).

In Antelias, three tickets were in contention. The first was led by
Elie Farhat Abou-Jaoudé, outgoing mayor, supported by Michel Murr and
the Tashnak Party. The second, led by Basam Abou-Fadel and enjoying
the support of the Rahbanis, refused to politicize the elections. The
third, that of the opposition, was supported by the reformist Kataeb
and the Free Patriotic Current.

In Dbayé, four tickets opposed one another: that of the outgoing mayor,
Kabalan Ashkar, supported by the SSNP; that of the outgoing deputy
mayor, Salim Massoud, backed by Michel Murr and the Tashnak; the
third comprised opposition personalities, Aounists and independents
with the support of the NLP; and the fourth, led by Milad Massoud,
candidate of the reformist Kataeb.

The “alliance” between Michel Murr and Amin Gemayel remained undeclared
and had the purpose of giving victory to the largest number of Kataeb
candidates. Ticket-splitting was the rule.

>>From Bikfaya and Baabdat to Jbeil In Bikfaya, Amin Gemayel and
Toufik Daher, the outgoing mayor, brought together a ticket of 15
members led by Fuad Abi-Hayla. Another ticket of six members was
assembled by families in the town who felt they should be represented
on the municipal council.

In Baabda, a ticket was agreed bringing together the leading families
of the town, led by Imad Labaki, nephew of the outgoing mayor, Assaad
Labaki. This ticket was backed by MP Nassib Lahoud and Salim Salhab,
who is “close to” the National Bloc.

In Jbeil, two large tickets and one ticket of the opposition faced
one another. Family considerations prevailed over political factors.
Of particular interest was the alliance enjoying the support of MP
Nazem Khouri, close to General Michel Sleiman, commander-in-chief
of the Army, and formed by the Hawat and Shami (National Bloc)
families, who were allied for the first time in half a century,
with the Kallabs (Destourians). The purpose of this combination was
to dislodge Jean-Louis Kardahi, who was himself mayor before being
appointed minister of telecommunications. Kardahi reportedly had the
backing of influential figures in the Administration and had used
the facilities of his department to win the favor of the Jbeiliotes.

Ticket-splitting and vote-buying

In Hadeth and Shiyah, two important towns of the Baabda-Aley District,
the Aounists comprised the most important opposition force to confront
the tickets loyal to the Administration. Other “opposition” forces were
too fragmented to be taken seriously. In Ghobeiri, in the southwestern
suburbs of the capital, a Hezballah tidal wave called into question
the popularity of the Amal Movement, led by the parliamentary speaker,
Nabih Berri.

The poor performance of opposition candidates reflected their habitual
inability to cooperate effectively.

In their monthly message, the Maronite bishops deplored the fact
that family considerations had played such a major role in deciding
voters’ choices.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS