Lebanon News

Dark horse opposition ticket tempers drum-beat in Sidon

The beleaguered pro-opposition list in Sidon’s local elections yesterday kept up its criticism of its “anti-democratic” opponents but continued its policy of encouraging dialogue in hopes of an election-day surprise.

The head of the Sidon list, Ousama Saad, held a news conference to denounce the Hariri-Bizri-al-Jamaa al-Islamiya coalition ticket, saying it aimed at “doing away with the people’s right of expression. It’s not based on firm foundations; it is an alliance of the moment, which will quickly disappear after election day.”

However, Saad indicated that the National Democratic Rally, which he heads, is hoping to attract supporters of at least one of the members of the alliance to vote for the opposition on election day. “We continue to support dialogue ... we have not stopped talking to anyone, especially al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and the national trend represented by Bizri,” Saad said.

Reacting to a news conference held by current mayor Ahmad Kalash, Saad said that projects carried out by the municipality over the last decade should be praised but argued that “personal interests” had become intertwined with the municipality’s work.

Sources said the Sidon list had dropped two members of Sidon MP Mustafa Saad’s Popular Nasserite Organisation to shore up its chances on election day.

Now being considered for inclusion on the list are Mohammed Kawtharani, a Shiite candidate close to Hizbullah, and Abdel-Karim Aoujeh.

Aoujeh, a pro-Bizri figure who was dropped from consideration from the coalition list, is expected to bring a substantial number of votes to Saad’s list if he is officially accepted.

The final composition of both lists is scheduled to be revealed this afternoon at rallies taking place in parking lots which observers said will be the first large-scale shows of strength by the two groups since the announcement of the three-way alliance earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Hilal Qobrusli, who heads the alliance list, predicted that the supporters of the three groups would be loyal to all candidates on the ticket.

But when asked whether he thought the opposition list would be able to bring victory to some of its members at the expense of the alliance, he commented: “Anything is possible.”

While on a campaign swing through downtown Sidon, Qobrusli said he had hoped that a ticket grouping the Saad supporters could be put together, but added that the issue had already been decided.

MP Bahiya Hariri paid a visit to the mufti of Sidon, sheikh Mohammed Salim Jalaleddine.  He commented afterwards that he did not distinguish between candidates, saying that only their work for the benefit of the city would bring out the differences between them.





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