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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Electoral Battle Kicks Off: 702 Candidates for 128 Seats

08/04/2009 - Hussein - Assi Almanatv

The race for parliament officially began in Lebanon as the deadline for registering candidates expired Tuesday midnight, with a "record" of more than 700 Lebanese running for 128 seats; a precedent in Lebanon’s history.

Among the 702 candidates, there are three Prime Ministers (Fouad Saniora, Najib Miqati and Omar Karami), two Speakers (Nabih Berri, Hussein Husseini), five President's sons (Emil Emil Lahoud, Dory Kamil Chamoun, Nadim Bashir Gemayel, Sami Amine Gemayel and Michel Rene Moawwad), two artists (Ghassan Rahbani and Abdo Monzer), four journalists (Nuhad Machnouq, Charles Ayoub, Ouqab Saqr and Nayla Tueini), eighty-six civilians only in Tripoli and Menyeh districts (north of Lebanon) and only eight women.

Yet, the overall electoral picture, in terms of alliances and lists of candidates, has not yet "settled" in all of Lebanon’s districts, mainly in districts that are likely to witness fierce battles, like in Zahle, Maten and Sidon.

Apparently, the national opposition is at ease and has been preparing and announcing lists. In contrast, the March 14 bloc is looking more perplexed, hesitant and undecided.

The bloc, that's still in the tiring process of forming "alliances" in some of the districts, is also reportedly engaged in internal conflicts over the distribution of parliamentary seats, given the "abundance" of candidates in its ranks, candidates who generally refuse to "sacrifice" even for the interest of the so-called bloc's "unity."

Thus, candidates who were "sacrificed" by their leaders seem to be continuing the battle, alone. For instance, former MP Ghattas Khoury (Future Movement) who was excluded from the Chouf electoral list didn't go out of the race. For his part, Democratic Gathering MP Abdallah Farhat who wasn't anymore part of his bloc's list announced on Wednesday that he was continuing the battle independently. MP Misbah Ahdab in turn said that he was still a candidate and he would do his best to win, although he was most probably taken off Tripoli's Coalition list…

Moreover, internal disputes within the March 14 bloc continue to be the talk of the town two months ahead June 7… For instance, the loyalty list in the Metn district is still facing obstacles given that the coalition between MP Michel Murr, Phalange party and Minister Nassib Lahoud doesn't seem to be firm. Indeed, the three parties only agree that their main "enemy" is the head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun. Murr and Phalange party's chief Amin Gemayel are also refusing to include the Lebanese Forces candidate Eddie Abi El-Lamaa on their list, although the LF is a March 14 ally.

In the northern port city of Tripoli, the situation doesn't seem to be at its best. Negotiations to form a coalition list that would join the Future Movement with Minister Mohamad Safadi and former PM Najib Miqati are still ongoing. The coalition has, however, many "victims" from the MPs who have been portrayed as "fixed" representatives for the north city such as Mostafa Allouch and Misbah Ahdab. Yet, the city seems to be heading towards an electoral battle given that former PM Omar Karami, who refused to be part of such coalition, announced his candidacy.

Meanwhile, the fierce battles are likely to concentrate in Christian populated regions like in the Beirut-1 district, Baabda, Zahleh, Kesrouan, Jbeil, Batroun, where the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is sparing no effort to end the policy of "isolation."

Sidon, the South's Capital, also joined the battlefields on Tuesday when Prime Minister Fouad Saniora decided to run for one of the two Sunni seats in the city, putting an end to all efforts to reach consensus and creating another conflict between the Future movement and the Islamic Jamaa group that condemned Saniora's step as "a hasty and miscalculated" decision.

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