Newly elected Sidon council members who were voted in after a last-minute consensus are now battling over who should become mayor, sources close to the four blocs in the 21-seat panel said yesterday.
Following polls on June 7, 12 seats in the local council went to candidates supported by prime minister Rafik Hariri’s sister, Sidon MP Bahiya Hariri, five to al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, three to the Bizri clan and one to the head of the rival list, Oussama Saad.
Differences between the three groups, which delayed the formation of a consensus list, appear to be resurfacing with their failure to agree on who should be mayor.
The tripartite coalition was led by Hilal Qobrusli, a pro-Hariri figure who looked likely to become mayor until the shaky agreement collapsed with Bahiya Hariri insisting the deputy mayor should be councillor Mahmoud Hariri, another pro-Hariri figure.
According to a source close to al-Jamaa’s councillor, Farouk Zaatari, MP Hariri had promised him the deputy mayor’s position, a claim denied by a political source.
A prominent community leader, philanthropist and Sidon municipality member for some 20 years, Zaatari came first among the 21 winners with 12,698 votes a fact he thinks makes him eligible for the second position in the council, his source added.
The election of the mayor and his deputy are due to be held on Monday, giving the members “ample time to let contacts sort things out”, the source said.
Saad, Sidon MP Mustafa Saad’s brother and his deputy in the leftist Popular Nasserite Organisation, held a meeting yesterday for his list’s members and issued a statement urging the Hariris, the Bizris and al-Jamaa to “lift their dominance” of the new local council “to let it operate properly”.
The difference in votes between the last-ranking candidate on the winning list and the top loser was only 168, triggering accusations by Hariri supporters that pro-Jamaa voters had resorted to cross-list balloting. Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya has denied the accusations.