According to the preliminary results the Beirutis list, backed by the Future Movement of former PM Saad Hariri, won the first local elections in Beirut since 2010. Despite the low turnout of approximately 20 percent, the Beirutis list won all the 24 seats in the municipal council. Heavy security measures were taken during the elections.
Local elections were held in Beirut and Bekaa-al-Hermel districts on May 8, while the elections in Mount Lebanon will be held on May 15. Elections in south Lebanon and Nabatieh are set for May 22 and north Lebanon and Akkar for May 29.
Beirutis list had the support of the key parties: Sunni Muslim Future Movement, the Shiite Muslim Amal movement, the three main Christian parties: the Lebanon Forces (LF), the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), and the Kataeb Party and the secular Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). The list was made up by 12 Christians and 12 Muslims and had the purpose to equal power sharing between Christians and Muslims. Issam al-Ghawi is the candidate for the PSP on the Beirutis List.
The recent established “Beirut Madinati” grassroots movement challenged the traditional politicians like Hariri, whose Future Movement dominated the elections in Beirut in the past. The Beirut Madinati list, which is Arabic for “Beirut, my city”, vowed to clean up the politics. List leader Ibrahim Mneihmneh said: "We will go to the polls and throw out the corrupt politicians. We will no longer whine about the trash, traffic, or corruption." But Beirut Madinati list warned of growing reports about the presence of blatant violations and electoral fraud and said: “We hold the Interior Ministry responsible for every violation.” The list of Beirut Madinati consists of 24 candidates both female and male running equally, Muslims and Christians, and include academics, technocrats, fishermen, artists and activists. The movement was founded in 2015 shortly after the trash crisis that summer sparked protests demanding a solution to growing piles of waste and an overhaul of paralysed government institutions. Even though they did not won any seats, Mneihmneh said his campaign "had very good results".
The trash crisis began when the government closed the city’s main landfill without agreeing on a replacement. For eight months trash piled up in the city. An agreement was reached in March to open a new disposal facility, but critics cast it as simply another backroom deal that failed to address the root of the problem. The stench grew even worse in April, as excavators dismantled the piles of garbage to carry it out of the city.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said that 20,000 security and military personnel would be deployed in Beirut and the Bekaa region to ensure safe and smooth elections. He praised the generally peaceful elections. “The first stage of elections went on smoothly and peacefully at a very high rate and they were held on time. The Lebanese have proved that they deserve freedom and democracy”, he said. Machnouk also said the ministry received 650 complaints, most of which are dealt with. He reported four incidents of gunfire, eight scuffles inside polling stations and 20 other “minor security incidents” throughout the day.
The elections are the first in Lebanon since six years. In 2013 parliamentary election were supposed to take place but have been postponed twice due to political instability of the Syrian conflict. Moreover, Lebanon has been without an president since 2014, because the different religious groups could not agree on a leader.
Sources: Reuters, AlArabiya, Dailystar, YaLibnan, Naharnet