The announcement of a three-way coalition list for Sidon’s local elections was met with criticism yesterday from a former member of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya as families not slated for inclusion also voiced disapproval.
At a news conference, sheikh Maher Hammoud called an alliance of the Bizri and Hariri political machines for the Sunday poll “a sin” but also urged al-Jamaa to rescind its decision for purely political reasons.
He cited important victories by the group in Iqlim al-Kharoub, Qalamoun and Tripoli during the first two election rounds, warning that it stood to “lose a wide segment of its rank-and-file” if it insisted on remaining in the coalition.
“The votes that al-Jamaa obtained are not from party members but from supporters and believers. These votes are not fixed, but rise or fall depending on the positions of al-Jamaa,” said Hammoud, who heads the Gathering of Muslim Ulama.
Before the news conference, an al-Jamaa delegation reportedly briefed Hammoud on the decision but was ordered out of his downtown office.
On Tuesday, MP Bahiya Hariri, Abdel-Rahman Bizri and al-Jamaa’s Ali Sheikh Ammar said they would join forces after weeks of negotiations.
Hammoud was one of the fundamentalist group’s founders but left in 1979. He said he spoke for many members who “staunchly opposed” the alliance.
Meanwhile, the Majzoub family led the list of those angered by the negotiation process, since Ghassan Majzoub was briefly considered for the coalition’s top spot, then dropped. He was then proposed as a member but rejected the offer.
The Qotb family had produced four candidates but none was accepted for the list, which will be announced in final form tomorrow afternoon.
Hajj Zuheir Qablawi, an influential al-Jamaa member, is reportedly being considered as one of the group’s five candidates.
In the opposing Sidon list, backed by leftist leader Ousama Saad, sources expressed relief that the “nightmare” of Adnan Zibawi, who was dropped from consideration for the top spot, was over. The group feared Zibawi would be a strong candidate, but are now faced with the equally daunting prospect of al-Jamaa’s entering the coalition.
As for the composition of the Sidon list, the Abu Dhahr family has reportedly vetoed the inclusion of one of its members, since the individual did not consult with the family’s decision-makers.
The list distributed a statement yesterday describing the coalition as “an agreement to divide up the spoils” in the city council and addressed rumours that prime minister Rafik Hariri was footing the bill to fly in Lebanese residing in Saudi Arabia in time for Sunday’s elections.
“We welcome our brethren working in Saudi Arabia who have returned to participate in the poll,” the statement said.