BEIRUT/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The March 8 and March 14 coalitions are gearing up for the Order of Engineers elections in Beirut and the north this Sunday, with Progressive Socialist Party engineers siding with March 8 candidates.
In Beirut, the rival camps will compete for the presidency of the prominent professional association, along with five other posts in the body’s council.
The contest will pit a candidate list headed by Refaat Saad, who is backed by the Future Movement and other March 14 parties, against a slate led by Issam Bekdash, who is supported by the March 8 alliance.
The position of the head of the Order of Engineers in Beirut is rotated between Muslims and Christians. It is currently headed by Elie Bsaibes, from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement.
PSP engineers, whose votes usually tip the balance, will side with the March 8 list. Around 37,000 of 40,000 engineers in the Beirut order have paid their annual subscriptions and are thus eligible to vote.
Saad promised that, if elected, he would work for the interest of all engineers, regardless of their political affiliation.
“Once the results are announced at 7 p.m., I will forget about the March 8 or March 14 coalitions or anything that has to do with politics. I will be belonging to the Order of Engineers only and I will look out for the interests of all the engineers,” he told The Daily Star.
Saad said he would work on improving the professional and socio-economic situation of engineers and preserving health care provided by the order to them.
He also vowed to work on increasing the monthly retirement salaries of engineers, which is provided by a special fund.
“We have a plan to increase retirement salaries so that they meet increases in the cost of living. But this requires a balance between not emptying the fund on one side and providing the engineer with a dignified life on the other,” Saad said.
Another goal high on Saad’s agenda is electronic communication between the order’s library, engineers and universities.
“When this happens, the engineer can receive copies of all the new laws related to engineering via email, rather than having to get the official gazette every time,” Saad said.
Bekdash said his program was two-fold and aimed at improving the status of engineers in both the short- and long-term.
“My aim is to improve the daily performance of the order, which includes facilitating paper work processing for engineers along with preserving their rights to retirement pension, health care and other social benefits,” Bekdash said.
He said there were several flaws in the order’s daily performance that he was familiar with due to his work as a member of the its council in the past. “These could be fixed without the need for draft laws from Cabinet or Parliament,” he said.
Bekdash said he would push for a new law regulating the engineering profession, calling the current one outdated in light of the increasing number of the engineers registered with the order. The association’s membership has doubled from 20,000 to 40,000 over the past decade, partly due to the emergence of new areas of specialization.
Competing in the north will be a list headed by Marios Bainy, who is running for the top post and is backed by March 14 groups, and two March 8 president hopefuls, Fouad Daher and Bassam Shaheen.