TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Politicians in Tripoli are busy preparing for elections, despite mounting concerns that polls might be canceled or postponed as a result of either the Syrian crisis or the debate that is still raging over which electoral law to use.
The degree of preparedness differs between candidates, but nonetheless, all are indulging in the possibility of running as candidates.
In a recent meeting with his team, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that everything would be ready in time for elections, adding that he planned to launch his campaign soon. Mikati also reiterated that the elections would take place and would not be postponed.
Despite Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi’s repeated announcements that neither he nor his family members would run in the upcoming elections, his campaign team still holds weekly meetings. The possibility was left open, it seems, when he met with his team and did not suggest that they find jobs elsewhere.
For his part, Safadi is very aware of the political influence he could exercise in the upcoming elections, as his endorsement of either Mikati or the Future Movement could well result in their victory in Tripoli and the northern districts.
Though Mikati’s primary preoccupation is with Cabinet affairs, he is regularly kept apprised of Tripoli’s electoral map and has strategically broadened his circle of allies to include senior figures from the north, some of whom were once part of the Hariri team and others who were close to former Prime Minister Omar Karami.
Mikati gains additional points with residents because of the aid services he regularly offers to the needy in Tripoli, Akkar and Minyeh. Safadi and the Future bloc, who have offered similar services in the past, no longer do so.
Sources close to Karami said that despite some signs of a possible alliance with Safadi and Mikati, his position in the elections was not yet clear. Other sources said dialogue between Karami and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri had not been severed and that talks between them were still taking place.
Whether an alliance between Karami and Mikati would yield anything positive is doubtful, say sources, citing fears that the prime minister would politically dominate Karami like he did Safadi.
The Future Movement is considered the major party involved in the upcoming elections in Tripoli, as Future MPs currently occupy the majority of Tripoli’s seats in Parliament.
Officials from Future said preparations for the 2013 elections were under way. They stressed that their party’s leadership would form a list of candidates who have professed loyalty to the party and that this list would not include candidates loyal to Mikati or Safadi.
The Future officials expressed confidence in the loyalty of their supporters, adding that the failure of the current government to meet the city’s needs has disappointed Tripoli’s residents. They believe this will be reflected in the election’s outcomes.
The officials, who declared the party’s commitment to the opposition forces in Syria, argued that the majority of the city’s residents support the Syrian uprising and consider Mikati, Karami and Safadi as allied to the Syrian government.
Not to be forgotten in Tripoli’s electoral scheme are the Salafists and Islamist groups, who have experienced growing political influence in the city.
There are, however, differing points of view toward their real measure of influence and number. Some doubt that Salafists would actually vote for any one of the traditional political figures in the city and might be swayed to vote for the Future bloc.
Future Movement MP Mohammad Kabbara was successful in holding regular meetings in his residence with Salafists and Islamists, allying them with Future MPs to form the National Islamist Gathering.