BEIRUT: In the second round of voting Sunday, some 1,550 out of 2,341 physicians elected FPM member Mario Aoun as the new president of The Beirut Order of Physicians in a heated electoral battle against his opponent candidate Samir Mallat, who is supported by Hizbullah. Aoun will replace out-going president Mahmoud Shouqair.
Mallat, meeting the requirement for presidential candidacy as a continuing member of the order's committee, received around 740 votes during the elections, held at the order's headquarters in Tehwita.
In the first round of voting, which was held earlier Sunday, 3003 physicians elected eight new members of the order's committee, as well as four new members to the disciplinary committee, and three members to the retirement fund.
Aoun received the most votes in the first round with 1,593. Other candidates included: Nabil Kharrat (983 votes), Sami Raychouni (1,054 votes), Amir Abdel-Nour (975 votes) and Abdel-Hamid Hashisho (1,000 votes), who ran on Aoun's list; an unsupported candidate, Maryam Rajji (979 votes); and Maher Hamzeh (968 votes) and Mohammad Arnaqout (950), both on Mallat's list.
Previously eight candidates were running for the order's presidency but Sunday's second round election was a battle between Mallat and Aoun.
Hikmat Husseini, supported by the National Bloc, and unsupported candidates Fouad Boustani, Georges Nassar and Nazih al-Adem withdrew from the election battle last week. Additionally, candidate Michel Abou Abdallah, he was not eligible to continue his campaign after a sweeping loss in the first round election getting only around 400 votes out of the 3003.
Furthermore, the late withdrawal of unsupported candidate Hilal Waked Sunday - already a member of the orders' committee - was expected due to the poor presence of his supporters on the ground.
Aoun said he wants to improve the social situation of physicians here, amid the dire economic crisis.
"The first problem faced by all physicians is their relationship with the insurance companies and the National Social Security Fund," Aoun told The Daily Star before his election.
He said that a physician gets LL600,000 when he retires, while a pharmacist gets LL1.8 million.
"I also want to answer all the pending questions concerning the cost spent on the order's headquarters," which he said is an outrageous issue.
Most of the candidates running for the order's presidency were supported by political parties, which according to Aoun, is a dangerous trend as the order's president should not be "politically affiliated."
"Until Saturday evening most of the lists supported by political parties had not yet agreed on the candidates," Aoun said, adding: "Despite my affiliation with the FPM, I consider myself a doctor first".
On Saturday, both the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party, which supported Abou Abdallah, withdrew their candidates from the election as an attempt to "avoid participating in a confessional battle."
A statement released by the Future Movement said: "We had agreed with members of the physician's committee at the Amal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) to enter the election. We were surprised that some physicians breeched our agreement which was based on the support of a list headed by Abou Abdallah."
Similarly, the PSP issued a statement that said: "Based on the political background that became known by everyone, we hold responsible the parties who switched their positions at the last minute.
Abou Abdallah, who is also supported by the National Liberal Party and the Amal Movement, said on Sunday that he is not supported by any particular party but by "all physicians."
Additionally, the number of representatives elected to the three-year term on The Beirut Order of Physicians' committee was increased from 12-16 this year.
In Lebanon, there are around 9,000 physicians out of which 5,400 vote.