QOBEIYAT, Lebanon: The list backed by the Kataeb and the Free Patriotic Movement won municipal by-elections in the town of Qobeiyat in Akkar against a March-14 backed list, exit polls indicated Sunday.
The National News Agency reported that the list headed by Abdo Makhoul Abdo, the former mayor of Qobeiyat, won all 18 seats of the town’s municipal council. Although the Kataeb is a member of the March 14 coalition, it decided to support the FPM-backed list for the by-elections. The list was also supported by former MP Mikhail Daher.
The winning list engaged in a heated battle against candidates supported by the Lebanese Forces and Future Movement MP Hadi Hobeish, who hails from the town which witnessed one of its fiercest electoral battles. Supporters of Abdo celebrated in the town by launching fireworks when preliminary results were announced.
Hobeish cast his ballot in Qobeiyat and said that elections were held amid a free and democratic atmosphere. He said he would have preferred that the battle be focused on development but that the rival group wanted to politicize the election process.
In the Zghorta village of Baslouqit, members of the March-8 backed “Baslouqit Dignity” list, which was running against a March 14 backed ticket, swept all nine seats of the municipal council. The winning list was backed by Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement.
In the Chouf town of Debbieh, the list of former Mayor George Boustany defeated the rival list headed by Fadi Boustany, clinching all 12 seats.
No definite results emerged in the Akkar village of Bireh, where a March 14-backed list headed by former Mayor Mohammad Wehbe ran against a ticket headed by Jamal Merheb, who is seen as close to March 8.
While touring election centers in Qobeiyat, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel described the electoral process as “excellent.”
“Elections are a test of democracy ... despite security incidents, democracy is still present. Officials have to agree on an electoral law [for parliamentary elections] and we are ready [to make preparations],” he said. Charbel also visited election centers in Bireh and Kahaleh.
In the Jezzine village of Kfar Houne, the battle split the March 8 coalition. Hadi Hindi headed a list backed by the FPM, Amal and a number of families which ran against a rival ticket backed by Hezbollah and local families. The LF decided to back candidates from both lists. The battle was focused on the eight Christian seats in the municipal council, as consensus between Hezbollah and Amal was reached on the remaining seven seats allocated for Shiites.
In the newly formed municipality of the village of Sharbin in Baalbek-Hermel, 20 candidates competed over 12 seats for the village’s municipal council. The town, which has 2,114 eligible voters, is inhabited mainly by the Nasereddine and Rasheini families.
In the village of Nassrieh in Zahle, polls ran smoothly as a nine-member-list ran against a single candidate.
In the Aley town of Kahaleh, two lists headed by the Bejjani family competed for the 15-member council with no clear indication of who emerged victorious.
As The Daily Star went to press, the Interior Ministry had not yet issued official results, but had announced the unofficial voting turnouts. It said the voting turnout reached 60 percent in Qobeiyat, 56 percent in Bireh, 53 percent in Debbieh, 63 percent in Kahaleh and 30 percent in Kfar Houne.
Election centers opened at 7 a.m., as Army and Internal Security Forces deployed in the 18 villages and towns that held by-elections.