The political scene has changed in Tripoli, and many expect a fierce electoral battle in the city, regardless of when polls take place and under which law. In 2009, independent Sunni politicians including Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi ran on Future Movement lists. This rare arrangement allowed for calm in the northern city, but when Mikati was nominated for prime minister and Safadi backed him, the temporary alliance was broken, as Mikati took the post former Prime Minister Saad Hariri wanted.
This time around, the Future Movement has vowed to make those politicians who they believe betrayed their voters pay the price.
Sources familiar with electoral preparations in the northern city say the conflict in Syria will have a major effect on the polls. Lots of Syrian refugees are living in the north, and many residents of the city have showed support for the uprising.
No major March 8 figures from Tripoli have openly voiced support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, knowing they would pay for such a stance with votes.
As it is still not clear how elections will be run, candidacies and alliances have not been announced. Issues such as the size and district boundaries will certainly affect platforms and rhetoric.
According to a veteran Tripoli politician who asked to remain anonymous, the past two elections indicate that there are two strong currents in the city.
First is the Future Movement, which remains the city’s strongest group and is able to garner the support of some 40,000 people.
Second are those who support Prime Minister Omar Karami or his March 8 allies; this group should draw around 20,000 votes.
Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya has several thousands of followers in Tripoli, and Salafist support is also expected to be significant if the groups are able to unite. Estimates suggest between 5,000 and 8,000 voters would vote for Salafists.
If Mikati creates his own electoral list he is likely to win, because of his decades of charitable work in the city. However, his popularity is unlikely to extend to others on a list he forms.
This is why those who oppose the Future Movement need to form a broad coalition if they are to balance out the movement’s power.
But at the moment, those who could take on the Future Movement are not even united on whether they will run for office.
Mikati has said he will be a candidate, but it is not yet clear on what type of list, while last year Safadi said he did not plan to run.