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PSP sweeps Druze council elections as rivals boycott
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt arrives at the  National Dialogue session held at Baabda Palace, Lebanon, on Monday,  June 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt arrives at the National Dialogue session held at Baabda Palace, Lebanon, on Monday, June 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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BEIRUT: Druze Spiritual Council elections ran smoothly as expected Sunday, with candidates supported by Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party winning the majority of seats as members of the rival Lebanese Democratic Party followed their leadership’s decision to boycott the polls. The National News Agency reported that the voting turnout had been around 30 percent. The turnout among physicians, engineers and lawyers who elect their representatives was lower than that among holders of other university degrees, the agency said.

Rami Rayyes, the PSP’s media commissioner, told The Daily Star the turnout was much higher than 30 percent in some areas. “The elections were quiet, democratic and good in general,” said Rayyes, who won one of the seats.

He explained that the PSP did not prepare lists for the race, but that party members and others supported by the party joined the race.

The council, whose members were elected to new six-year-terms, is comprised of around 70 members, including religious figures and representatives of self-employed professionals, other university degree holders and districts. Druze MPs and ministers automatically become council members. The body administers the sect’s religious and non-religious, social and financial affairs.

LDP leader Talal Arslan boycotted the polls after talks with the PSP to reach consensus on the distribution of seats hit a dead end over a dispute on the status of Sheikh Nasreddine al-Gharib, whom Arslan supporters have proclaimed the Druze spiritual leader.

Members of the council, and its head, Druze spiritual leader Naim Hasan, were elected in 2006 according to a law organizing the affairs of the Druze sect which was passed a few months ahead of the polls.

Arslan, whose supporters also boycotted the polls in 2006, proclaimed Gharib as Druze spiritual leader, while Jumblatt’s supporters contend that Hasan is the spiritual leader.

Salim Hamade, Arslan’s media adviser, emphasized that no LDP members took part in the elections.

“It did not happen at all ... we have party members and we have supporters, maybe the supporters did that,” he said. “Maybe one or two.”

Media reports said some supporters of Arslan took part in the elections in violation of his decision to boycott.

Former Minister Wi’am Wahhab, the head of the Arab Tawhid Party and also a rival of Jumblatt, said he had a number of supporters running for council positions.

Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV Sunday morning, Wahhab said it would “not be a problem” if candidates supporting the PSP won a majority of seats.

Wahhab called on all members of the Druze sect, including Arslan, to participate in the polls. “He has to get used to polls; it is unacceptable to wait for the other to give us something.”

Wahhab said he formed a “good” list in Chouf. “Members of this list engaged in a serious battle and it could be a democratic experience.”

But a source familiar with the polls told The Daily Star Wahhab had not been supporting any candidates, except one from the Abu Diab family. “It was a battle in the media,” the source said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 10, 2012, on page 3.
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