Politicians yesterday urged the public to practice responsible voting in this weekend’s elections in the south, in an attempt to reduce tension in the run-up to the poll.
Vice-president of the Higher Shiite Council Abdel-Amir Qabalan predicted that the election would turn out to be “the mother of mercy” and not “the mother of all battles”, saying he hoped stability would prevail.
Addressing crowds in the town of Adsheet, Qabalan said any conflicts arising during the polls “would harm the interests of Lebanon, the south and the peace process.”
“It is strictly forbidden for disagreements to rise because their consequences would be serious and would not be in anybody’s favour,” he said.
Qabalan urged every family to choose only “its best candidates and distance itself from sectarian and family conflicts”.
Economy minister Yassin Jaber called on southerners to vote in large numbers on Sunday, denying that he was backing any candidates.
At the inauguration of a handicraft exhibition in Nabatieh, Jaber called on citizens to choose honest representatives who would be ready “to allocate the required time and effort to improve the conditions of their city.” Jaber added that Nabatieh required “a capable municipal council that would be up to the challenge.”
In Hasbaya, the Social Cultural Rally called on the public to “rise to the occasion by selecting competent and pro-resistance candidates”.
In Sidon, politicians continued to iron out the composition of a coalition list grouping the Hariri and Bizri machines and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya.
Discussions were held during a meeting last night at the Majdalyoun home of MP Bahiya Hariri, which brought together al-Jamaa’s Dr Ali Sheikh Ammar and Abdel-Rahman Bizri. Hariri held talks earlier in the day about the Sidon poll with her brother, prime minister Rafik Hariri, at his Koraytem residence.
Observers have focused on the fact that Bizri has yet to appear at rallies with the expected head of the list Adnan Zibawi, leading to speculation that the Bizri family is not completely behind the alliance.
They said that because Bizri stands to lose considerable influence in the city if the top post in the municipality goes to Zibawi, he has lobbied for an ally, Farouq Zaatari, for the second-place spot on the ticket.
Al-Jamaa was said to be preparing a 12-man list to be announced today if the coalition falls through.
On Sunday night, the opposition and Hariri camps traded accusations during duelling rallies at parking lots no more than a few hundred meters from each other.
At least five candidates withdrew from the race during the day, including two strong candidates linked to the city’s MP Mustafa Saad.